A new adaptation of Mikhail Lermontov‘s classic Russian novel, A Hero Of Our Time is revived through a merging of inventive physical theatre, projection and mirror-work. It is dark. The face of antihero Pechorin (Oliver Bennett) is lit by a flickering lighter. He turns away and talks to himself. His reflection, however, speaks to us – a shadow of himself.
This is the most sinister moment of the performance, which not only reverses the title, but also the characteristics of the protagonist Pechorin. The narrative depicts his life – the ideal of the Byronic hero – as a soldier in 19th century Russia. He is a nihilist, existentialist, satirist and egoist. He is arbitrary. He is contradiction.
The storyline focuses on Pechorin as he competes for the love of Princess Mary (Anastasiya Zinovieva) against his rival, Grushnitsky (James Marlowe). Through the clashing of Russia in the 19th century and 21st century England, the international theatre company HUNCH creates an impression of comradely games as they turn into battlefields of prestige, pride and existential boredom. Directed and adapted by Vladimir Shcherban and co-adapted by Bennett himself, HUNCH welcomes the audience into an energetic and immersive experience centred around the psyche of a strategical performer.
The design by Alexis Garcia uses the stage to perfection. The mirrror not only extends the space, but also intensifies the connection with the audience (which it directly addresses), and serves to challenge the actors as they have to watch themselves perform. The use of projection also playfully manages a scene with both female characters, played by Zinovieva, on stage. Throughout the performance, the cast delivers a genuine embodiment of their characters with an inventive use of props and foley sound, and they are intensely connected to one another. Bennett shows a smooth switch between narration and action through masterful multi-roling. The bond between him and Marlowe presents a lightness and ingenuity in their play within shifting power dynamics. Zinovieva is also convincing as the naïve Mary and distant Vera and is spellbinding in her powerful end scene.
This fresh adaptation of A Hero Of Our Time is a mesmerising spectacle that presents a comedic view of a well-hidden existential crisis. Even though Pechorin wins and loses throughout, the audience are gifted with a cleverly constructed, amusing and thought-provoking show.
A Hero Of Our Time is playing at C royale until the 27th of August. For more information and tickets, see here.
Photo Credit: absolutelyphoto.co.uk