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The Kreutzer Sonata, Arcola Theatre, review: ‘a compelling study of jealousy’

PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 July 2016

Greg Hicks in the Kreutzer Sonata. Picture: Ciaran Dowd.

Greg Hicks in the Kreutzer Sonata. Picture: Ciaran Dowd.

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Pozdnyshev’s ruminations on equality – never possible as long as women are viewed by men as sexual playthings - are as current as when Tolstoy wrote them in 1889

Leo Tolstoy’s novella, The Kreutzer Sonata, conflates the dark passions aroused by music with the darker passions of the flesh. When Pozdnyshev’s lovely wife, the mother of his five children, starts rehearsing The Kreutzer Sonata with a virile, visiting violinist, he is convinced the beauty of their duet can only come from shared intimacy.

He reads meaning into their every exchange.

We will never know in Nancy Harris’s brilliant adaptation if Mrs Pozdnyshev is really the coquettish flirt that Pozdnyshev’s increasingly self-serving narrative suggests.

What we do know is that his jealous rages developed after his wife stopped bearing children, and started asserting herself as a woman.

How is it possible, he wonders, to hate her so much in the day, but to lust for her at night? She is his property, but she is also the fuel that is burning his soul.

Greg Hicks’ nuanced performance reveals Pozdnyshev as both honest and deceitful, guileless and manipulative, prosaic and fantastical.

We meet him after his release from prison for his wife’s death. Was it murder or manslaughter? We’re never sure.

Is he sorry for what he has done, or simply for what he has lost? It’s hard to say. Perhaps he himself does not know.

In a week where a woman in bright shoes moved into Downing Street, Pozdnyshev’s ruminations on equality – never possible as long as women disproportionately primp and powder and are viewed by men as sexual playthings – were particularly interesting.

Too many of his observations are as current as when Tolstoy wrote them in 1889.

Deftly directed by John Terry, Hicks’ solo tour-de-force is utterly compelling.

On a raised dais, pianist Alice Pinto and violinist Phillip Granell bring Beethoven’s score to life.

There’s a glorious moment where Pozdnyshev leans back, totally absorbed by the music, yet taut with jealousy and suspicion.

A great watch.

Rating: 4/5 stars


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