The Duel: Sydney Theatre Company

Tom Wright's adaptation of 'Karamazov' and vision are unique and unsettling.
The Duel: Sydney Theatre Company
The Duel: Sydney Theatre Company I really don’t know how to begin. Where is probably more the point, anyway. We find ourselves in a strange place: a wide, shallow room, scarcely deeper than a corridor. A place between? There is a large window along the back wall, but no door. We can’t see the fourth wall, of course, because we are the fourth wall. Perhaps we’re also the door? There is a wardrobe, a chair and couch, a stereo and speakers. There are four people in this room: two young men, a young woman, and an older man. He isn’t wearing shoes. She doesn’t wear shoes either, but his sit neatly beside the couch, which draws attention to the fact he isn’t wearing them. The light is sterile and bright, occasionally marked by green flashing spots, as if we were staring directly into the light and becoming dazzled by it. The four people regard one another, exchange knowing smiles. One of the young men lights a cigarette, or tries to, fidgeting, preparing himself as if to speak, but doesn’t. Another speaks in his place… And so we’ve begun. I confess I haven’t read Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. As an impressionable teenager, I found the murder scene in Crime and Punishment so evocatively written, I felt as if I’d chopped up the old woman myself and was promptly sick on my parents’ living room carpet. It’s the only time a book ever elicited such a strong, immediate physical response from me. For a number of reasons, The Duel reminded me of this moment – and that I really do need to catch up on my reading. My parents thought I was on drugs. Based on Book 6 of Karamazov, Tom Wright’s adaptation is a delightfully abstract meditation on storytelling, and if director Matthew Lutton isn’t as much a devotee of David Lynch as he is of Dostoevsky, well, I’m an eraserhead. This isn’t a criticism; far from it. I found his vision unique and unsettling. Claude Marcos’ stage design is inspired in the way it allows the performers to draw and divide the audience’s attention, while Damien Cooper’s lighting, as previously touched upon, is a compelling character itself. He’d get my vote for best lighting of the year, while Kingsley Reeve’s sound design is similarly haunting. Angelo Badalamenti would be proud. The cast – Luke Mullins, Brian Lipson, Renee McIntosh and David Lee Smyth – all shine in their respective roles (perhaps it was they who made me see those spots), though I’m at a loss to describe their performances individually. I’m not sure this would be doing them much of a service anyway, as in a sense they represent four inflections in the same voice, and it’s to their credit that their performances are so perfectly pitched, so harmonious, that for me they symbolised the philosophical underpinnings of the stories they told. He/she/they were marvellous. While dreamlike in tone, The Duel is punctuated by rousing moments of humour and violence both physical and emotional. If anything, the final scenes stumble slightly by seeming to become more naturalistic, though perhaps their dream logic had already begun to permeate my sense of reality by then. The ending, in any case, is brilliant. But how to end this review? I fear I’ve been vague, though hopefully I’ve managed to convey how much I enjoyed this production. It’s challenging, certainly, and probably isn’t for everyone. But it should be. That’s the point of The Duel, really: it should be. The Duel: Sydney Theatre Company From The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky Adapted by Tom Wright Presented by Sydney Theatre Company and Thinice Venue: Wharf 2, Sydney Theatre Company, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay Wednesday 10 June 2009. 08:15 PM Thursday 11 June 2009. 08:15 PM Friday 12 June 2009. 08:15 PM Saturday 13 June 2009. 02:15 PM Saturday 13 June 2009. 08:15 PM Monday 15 June 2009. 07:00 PM Tuesday 16 June 2009. 08:15 PM

Gareth Beal

Wednesday 10 June, 2009

About the author

Gareth Beal is a freelance writer, editor and creative writing teacher who has written for a range of online and print publications. He lives on the NSW Central Coast with his wife and two cats.