Anna Karenina – Abbey Theatre, Dublin

Writer: Leo Tolstoy

Adaption: Marina Carr

Director: Wayne Jordan

Reviewer: Ciara L Murphy

“It’ll be a long time before men will let women be and it’ll be even longer before women will leave women alone.”

Leo Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina is brought to the Abbey stage this festive season in a new version by Marina Carr. This smoulderingly tense adaptation brings a new perspective to this great love story. Carr’s adaptation is tantalisingly current and devastatingly tragic.

Directed by Wayne Jordan and adapted by Carr, this production takes on an inherently Irish aesthetic. The story, revolving around a country undergoing a massive change politically, socially, and religiously, holds up an illuminating mirror to the current state of the nation. Carr seamlessly merges the frozen Russian landscape with a medley of Irish voices and concerns. Jordan’s direction provides a nod to Tolstoy’s traditional setting and is enhanced by Sarah Bacon’s set and costume design.

This production is unlike the Abbey Theatre’s usual festive fare and is perhaps an unusual choice for the Christmas season; however, it sits well with the current national climate. Carr’s Anna Karenina is at times a blistering critique of misogyny, gendered norms, and reproductive rights. Anna, played by Lisa Dwan, is ridiculed, persecuted, and judged by her peers for the ‘illegal’ affair she participates in with Count Vronsky (Rory Fleck Byrne). Dolly, played by Ruth McGill, is constantly pregnant by her serial adulterer husband Stiva (Killian Burke) and appears to have no control over her own body. In moments like this, the well-known story takes on a more significant and pointed meaning, with Anna’s persecution feeling more dangerous than entertaining and Dolly’s entrapment feeling all too relevant in 2016 Ireland.

The production is beautifully choreographed by Movement Director Liz Roche. The presence of live pianists (Andrew Synott and Cathal Synott) provides an interesting, yet subtle, break in the play’s fourth wall. Dwan’s performance is captivating and dangerously seductive. Dwan finds the balance between mania and intent and Derbhle Crotty’s portayal of the Princess Sherbatsky serves as a delightfully tense contrast Dwan’s subtle hysteria.

Carr’s new perspective on Tolstoy’s timeless novel is a brave addition to the festive calendar, but a successful one at that. This production is a powerhouse of artistry and political intent and a wonderfully fresh take on a Russian classic.

Runs until 28 January 2017 | Image: Ros Kavanagh

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User Rating: 1.81 ( 15 votes)

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  1. I hated how Anna Karenina was made to be ‘Irish’. The production lost out on the dignity of the novel in my opinion.

  2. I agree entirely with the above sentiment. I feel the play was farcical with Irish’isms and, for the first time ever, I left the theater after the first act.

  3. “Dolly’s entrapment”… Comparing the livestock cycle of reproduction that ensnared women in Tolstoy’s Russia is hardly “all too relevant” to contemporary Ireland. What on earth could such similarities be? This is a ghastly perversion of reality in an otherwise confident and pithy review.

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