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A CurtainUp London Review
The Grand Inquisitor
Like DreamThinkSpeak's recent adaptation of Crime and Punishment, a kaleidoscopic representation of Dostoyevsky forms the basis for this production. The Brothers Karamazov a tale of innocence, holiness and depravity is reset to Seville during the darkest hour of the Inquisition. A charismatic, miraculous yet charitable figure appears in Spain, apparently the re-incarnation of Christ. Imprisoned by the Grand Inquisitor (Bruce Myers), he is treated to an intensive session of religious theorising. It is perhaps ironic that this instance of the Inquisition should lack any form of enquiry. Instead, the Cardinal delivers a monologue on the Biblical story of Christ in the Wilderness and its dubious significance to the human condition. The barefooted Listener (Rohit Bagai) kneels opposite the Inquisitor and is motionless and impassive. His unbroken silence means that it is solely the Grand Inquisitor who forms our impression of Christ.
Bruce Myers performance is steady and direct but cannot circumvent the didactic and recitative nature of the text. The staging is effectively simple and stark. The bare stage, with an unrelieved black backdrop, has no props or scenery except for a single wooden stall. The harshly bright lighting implicates the audience in the dogmatic interrogation.
It is interesting to consider how rapturously this production would have been received without the involvement of the iconic Peter Brook. It is static, sententious but high profile. The question remains how engaging to a modern audience is a play about Biblical semantics which does not transcend its immediate context. However with just five days of performance in the Barbican's smallest venue, its appeal needs to be exclusive.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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