[2013135] The Kreutzer Sonata

[2013135] The Kreutzer Sonata

State Theatre Company of South Australia @ State Theatre Workshop

11:00am, Wed 13 Mar 2013

It had been widely reported that Barry Otto – originally engaged to perform Kreutzer – pulled out of the production (on doctor’s advice) after two performances. His replacement, Renato Musolino, is a well-known (and well-regarded) local actor… and also taught me the Stanislavski Method during a couple of terms of introductory adult acting. So, walking into this performance, there was a maelstrom of expectations: Of a troubled production rebooted mid-season. Of the teacher who I looked up to. Of a flagship piece of theatre in the Festival’s programme.

First impressions are of awe: Geoff Cobham’s set is gorgeous, a multi-level industrial construction with catwalks and static spaces aplenty. To the side, a caged area that later contained the piano and violin accompanists; at the base of the construction, a pool of dyed water that reminds me of 20:50, a piece I once saw in the Saatchi Gallery (but without the olfactory texture of the oil). Cobham’s lighting design also allows subtle images to be projected onto the background, and the ambient murkiness – combined with spot lighting – generates a lovely atmosphere.

When Musolino appears – atop an elevated platform – he is immediately convincing; his Pozdnyshev is a violent misogynist, bewildered by his wife’s carnal wanderings, and rage and confusion can be found in almost all his actions. It was a fantastic performance: he completely owns the work, and it’s almost impossible – in retrospect – to imagine Otto in the role. And that final – desperate, whispered – line: “Forgive me”… wow. I still get chills from the memory of it. Fucking brilliant.

The permanent presence of the script in Renato’s grasp was completely unremarkable – after all, Pozdnyshev essentially narrates the events that have led him here. Walking away from the performance, I almost couldn’t imagine it being any other way. In fact, The Kreutzer Sonata comes across as an incredibly polished production… it really is hard to believe that it came from such adversity.

There’s other notes around this rendition of Kreutzer that warrant a mention: Renato’s reflection on acquiring the role is a surprising read, for example. And the MKA team were in attendance for this largely grey-haired matinée – Tobias saw me on the way in, high-fiving me as he walked past (to the annoyance of my vexed octogenarian neighbour), and the Q&A session at the end of the performance offered the opportunity for MKA to challenge the feminism – or lack thereof – in Sue Smith’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s original novella.

But none of that can distract from the triumph of this production; in terms of theatre, Kreutzer was only challenged by Brink’s Thursday in the Festival lineup.

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