The Scoop, London – until 25 September 2016
Adapted from Dostoyevsky’s novel and featuring music by Toyah Willcox and Simon Darlow, this brand new musical can’t quite decide if it takes place in modern Russia or a more period setting.
My previous attempts at open air theatre have not gone well in the past as my experience with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers last year proved. So it was with a dubious look at the sky that I arrived at The Scoop for Crime & Punishment: The Rock Musical.
Adapted for the stage by Phil Willmott, Dostoyeksky’s 1866 novel is a story which challenges its reader as to whether murder or any crime for that matter can be justified. The production itself does touch upon this, but seems confused in the style in which it wants to present it in.
Set in a steampunk 19th century version of St Petersburg, the story follows idealistic student Raskolnikov as he attempts to justify the idea that great men are justified in murdering people – if it helps lead to a better world and in this case a reduction in poverty and misery. But these thoughts lead him down a dangerous path as he goes on to kill a money lender who is terrorising the community.
Infused with a variety of strong and powerful rock songs composed by Toyah Willcox and Joel Bogen, the production of this classic story has great ideas and intentions but due to the time constraint of the piece (a running time of an hour and thirty minutes), not everything works.
Alec Porter as the idealistic Raskolnikov, plays the tormented character beautifully well – conveying perfectly through his movements and expressions his passion, his torment and his guilt – particularly when he begins to seek redemption for his crime are intense and powerful to watch. Porter’s vocals are equally as strong – particularly during the spirited “I Want to be Free”. There is also strong performances from Rachel Delooze as the sweet and loyal Sonya and Angela Laverick as the feisty and desperate Katerina, both proving that the characters are strong female roles to play.
Francesca Bridge-Cicic’s choreography is simple and straight to the point, making full use of the space which means the production flows with ease, yet the lack of depth to the characters in Phil Willmott’s adaptation can mean the production doesn’t pack as much punch or emotionally engage as it could.
This being said there can be no complaints at the music and the songs. From the rousing “We Are” to the more poignant and touching “Legacy”, each song captures the emotions of the story and help the audience to understand the character’s state of mind perfectly. There is an edginess to them that fits in with the aggression and sinisterness of the plot as in “Angels & Demons” – suggesting the conflicting sides to Raskolnikov and which part of him that he is going to follow.
As the skies darken, so does the plot and it is really in the last thirty minutes that the production becomes particularly vicious and tense as Raskolnikov tries to comes to terms with the consequences of his actions with Porfiry attempting to get him to confess.
There is no doubting the quality of the cast performances, but the production just feels slightly too short to be meaningful or give the audience enough time to get to understand the characters and their motives. But do go for the music at least – which is electrifying and memorable.
Crime & Punishment: The Rock Musical will play at The Scoop until the 25th September. Entry to the show is free.