It only seems like yesterday that I reviewed The University of York Platform Theatre Society’s production of Moira Buffini’s dark comedy Dying For It last term. How time flies! Now, in week four of term two, Platform are back with a brand new production of Enda Walsh’s brash and chaotic play Delirium. Directed by Venetia Cook, and featuring many of the talented third years who brought to life the modern plays The Wheel and The Cosmonaut’s Last Message last term, I couldn’t wait to see what they had in store.
Delirium is an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Alyosha (James Ralph) returns home after a religious pilgrimage to the violence and squalor of the Karamazov household. His father, Fyodor (Josh Welch) is a sex-hungry misogynist, and is also the father of three other boys, to three different women. Bringing with him the guidance of an old priest, Alyosha attempts to navigate the world in which the Karamazov family hurtles towards combustion, and watches as the legacy of his tainted family crumbles in a downfall of broken promises and seething revenge.
So not quite a show for the family, then. There are some dark themes explored here, and Walsh’s concise, rich text is an excellent foundation for a dark, filthy and often humorous portrayal of a world lacking in morals. Cook’s overall concept for the production taps into this very essence in multiple ways. Performance wise, there are some brilliantly grotesque and vibrant performances here from the entire cast. Jack Gates as Smerdyakov in particular shines as the quietly vengeful runt of the Karamazov litter, while Welch gleefully parades the stage as a father whose countless sins infect everything he touches.
There are some gorgeous design elements coming together in this production, too. Izzy Marsh has once again created a powerful and effective lighting design that tarnishes the stage in a palette of bright and vibrant colours. They flesh out the atmosphere of the scene, enhancing both performances and poignant points within the narrative.
Complimenting this lighting design is Natasha Dawson’s set, which acts as a distorted canvas that allows Cook to paint on the many atmospheres she invokes from the playtext. Sprouting out of a sharp, angular structure with a door in it at the back of the stage are a bunch of jagged screens. These offer up some stunning images to the audience; for instance, in the second half of the play when the characters are in a grungy club, performers stand behind these screens and cast shadows of their bodies onto them. This contributes directly to the whirlwind of emotions being conjured up in the scene.
Another such touch comes in the form of Smerdyakov telling his own life story to the audience towards the end. The character wheels on an old school overhead projector, and projects slides depicting grotesque cartoons of his upbringing onto one of the screens. It offers up a fine example of the unique visual aesthetic and forms of storytelling you can only find in theatre.
If there’s one little niggle I have with this production, it’s the fact that sometimes, amidst the chaos, lines of dialogue are lost due to performers getting wrapped up in a character’s aggression and losing the clarity that comes with controlled projection. However, this isn’t a major fault, and can be forgiven by the production’s overall sense of confidence towards its execution of the text.
Delirium is a cracker, and a beautifully conceptualised piece that poses plenty of questions to a modern audience – and it does so with style and finesse. Relevant and sharp, it’s a performance you won’t soon forget.
Delirium played at the Black Box Theatre. For tickets to upcoming productions and more information on the Department of Theatre, Film and Television, visit www.york.ac.uk/tftv
To see more photos from the production, please visit www.timothykellyphotography.com