Saturday 20 October 2018

Review: Anna Karenina at the Abbey Theatre

Anna Karenina at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin.

Image: Anna Karenina
Image: Anna Karenina

Katy Hayes

Marina Carr makes Leo Tolstoy’s novel her own in this brilliant adaptation that squarely places the tragic love story at the centre of human experience.

But Anna’s obsessive romance is only one part of a panoramic vision of the nitty-gritty of sexual love and the creation of family.

So many of Carr’s signature devices are here: a played-out birth on stage; a ritualized wedding; a suicide; the cruelty of women. There is a doomed heroine. And always there is a battle between men and women for control of the private and the public space.

Wayne Jordan directs at breakneck speed, and the three-and-a-half hours fly by; a sturdy theatrical shape has been carved from the baggy monster of the novel. Every single performance is impressive in its own way, and Lisa Dwan as Anna proves herself a high-wattage star. She makes a perfect Carr heroine, simultaneously strong and fragile, as she knocks back the morphine and gets stretched on the rack of unwise love. Crucially, she has the necessary streak of viciousness.

The domestic is elevated to the central ground; a war over the quality of a jam recipe is a bitter three-way combat.  This is a most fecund play; three women have pregnancies, one has several. The cast list calls for “loads of babies”. Ruth McGill combines great depth and humour as the permanently pregnant Dolly, raising the issue of contraception. There are plenty of laughs as human absurdity underpins all the tragedy.

Declan Conlon brings gravitas and complication to Karenina, the non-villain of the piece. And the snow falls, so it must be a Christmas show. Don’t miss it

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