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Anna Karenina – Theatre Review

Tolstoy’s epic tragedy, Anna Karenina, has been brought to life in a reimagined form for Edinburgh’s Lyceum. Lesley Hart boldly reinvents the Russian tale of betrayal with modernised dialogue, whilst Emma Bailey’s set design hits you like a ton of bricks.  

The story of Anna Karenina is intricate. Anna must cross the country by train to help save her brother Stiva’s marriage after his affair is revealed. However, on arrival at the station, a chance encounter with her brother’s friend Vronsky breaks up her family life and sends her beyond the realms of sanity. 

Credit Robbie McFadzean

Though Polina Kalinina’s direction is stylised and choreographed, this production is not as affecting as the tale in Tolstoy’s written words. The portrayal of both Karenin and Vronsky feels flat though the actors carry it through. The injection of modern language does raise an eyebrow and a laugh at points, but it’s the set design that is most striking about this production, with a glass screen and a minimalist, minimalist bedroom. Bailey suggests the tragic outcome with these devices, as we witness this façade crumble as a woman pulled and in turmoil. 

A bold attempt, it’s perhaps not the adaptation that I was hoping for, though it has nuances that keep it interesting. 

Anna Karenina is running at the Lyceum until 3rd June

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