Theatre at UBC
The Idiots Karamazov
by Christopher Durang and Albert Innaurato

Dates and Venue 20 March 2009 | Frederic Wood Theatre

Director Chris McGregor Original songs Patrick Pennefather Set Design Rachel Glass Costume Design Jennifer Darbellay Lighting & Sound Ereca Hassel Stage Manager Breanne Jackson

Reviewer Jane Penistan

The Idiots Karamazov? What is this? It is a glorious mish mash of 19th and 20th century literature. My first thought, what fun those two authors must have had writing it. Secondly, what fun everyone in the cast must have had rehearsing this intellectually witty romp, and thirdly what courage Chris McGregor has to attempt to direct this with its huge student cast. Both he and they succeeded brilliantly in presenting this incredibly intricate and scholarly send up.

Many of the authors mentioned in the script are obscure and their writing very dated. The central character, a Victorian blue stocking translatrix, Constance Garnett, is almost forgotten today, and her translations, in the light of present day learning, somewhat specious.

Other literary personalities appearing are also little known now, or are well known writers of the mid 20th century. Much of the dialogue also deals with the beliefs, or parodies of these, and the mixture of misunderstood and mixed up thoughts and words are delivered with speed and hilarity.

The scenery and costumes here are clever and varied, but always pleasing and appropriate. The sound and music are well in tune with the action and setting and Patrick Pennefather’s musical compositions are an integrated, and well-realized part of this multifaceted extravaganza. Lighting is always changing with the mood and spirit of each of the many scenes, and subtly highlights and isolates the small individual incidents.

Constance Garnett is on stage in her wheel chair wheel chair through most of the performance, she is busy making notes, talking to various characters or just enjoying the ongoing singing and dancing, in some of which she joins with 21st century abandon.

With a cast of 21 actors, some of who play more than one role, much chorus and solo singing and dancing, this is a breathless but thoroughly entertaining performance.

Becky Shrimpton, as Constance Garnett is a Victorian lady in a wheelchair, who never misses a trick, frequently joins in with the choruses and scribbles away, frantically making notes and has some fast speaking speeches and much commentary, littered with spoonerisms.

Constance is attended by her butler, Ernest, a silent stone-faced gentleman’s gentleman, whom one recognizes later as Ernest Hemingway (Simon Thistlewood).

Kevin Stark, a talented actor with a great range as a singer, is Alyosha Karamazov, the central figure in the unlikely Karamazov family of strangely assorted characters, and of the play. He manages a multitude of conflicting episodes and personages with considerable aplomb. He and Constance are the central figures of the narrative and hold the whole multi-scene production together.

All the many roles here are well interpreted and characteristically performed. Chris McGregor took on a mammoth task in choosing to direct this almost zany script and he produced, with his lively, well drilled and intelligent company and crews, a truly sparkling, fascinating and thoroughly entertaining show.

© 2009 Jane Penistan