Theatre review - The Kreutzer Sonata

By Leo Tolstoy Adapted by Nancy Harris

Directed by Natalie Abrahami

Gate Theatre, running until 18 February 2012

Nancy Harris’s wonderful adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s novella, THE KREUTZER SONATA, is given a welcome revival at the Gate.

Pozdynyshev, a smartly dressed, middle-aged man sits alone in a train carriage. “I am not a music lover” he tells us before likening an evening of music to visiting a brothel: “you pay your money, you perspire – there is a vague sense of release”. The reason he hates music, we discover, is because of his conviction that his wife, an accomplished pianist, was having an affair with his childhood friend, Trukhachevski, a professional violinist, Trukhachevski.

When Trukhachevski calls on his old friend he is evidently taken with his wife: Pozdynyshev recalls their first meeting with venom: “Had they been beasts in a forest there is nothing surer than they would have been rutting right there.” They share a love of music and begin rehearsing together, with Pozdynyshev’s encouragement, for a private concert. But Pozdynyshev’s suspicions of infidelity quickly become an obsession and we learn that he is recently released from prison after being acquitted of murder.

Hilton McRae gives a convincing portrait of a cold, calculating man who hides his rabid jealousy behind a veneer of solicitous courtesy. He is, by turn, repelled and erotically fixated by his wife. His monologue reveals a deep rooted distrust and hatred of women – before he married he led a life of dissolution – “women understand money” he opines. Later, he describes them as “playthings for men’s pleasure…slaves who think their shackles are bracelets.”

As Pozdynyshev recounts his story, and the events that led him to his violent crime of passion, we are given glimpses of his wife (Sophie Scott) and Trukhachevski (Tobias Beer) behind a transparent screen, playing Beethoven’s sonata. This is interspersed with film by Dan Stafford Clark.

Sensitively directed by Natalie Abrahami, beautifully designed by Chloe Lamford - an elegant  19th century train carriage partially shattered - with atmospheric lighting by Mark Howland, sound by Carolyn Downing and musical direction by Tom Mills this gem of a piece assails all the senses.

Originally published by Theatreworld