Founded in 2010, The Print Room theatre used to be at home in an abandoned building in Hereford Road, but after the landlord announced development plans for the site last year, Artistic Director Anda Winters had to locate a new, suitable venue. Now heralded as one of London’s most upmarket fringe venues, it has found a new home at the Coronet in Notting Hill. Previously a Victorian playhouse and cinema, the treasured building is in the midst of a five-year project that aims to restore the building whilst maintaining and enhancing its charming original features.
To kick off The Print Room’s autumn season, we are offered Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes From Underground. As a solitary figure on stage, Harry Lloyd delivers a ragingly successful interpretation of Dostoyevsky’s unreliable, unnamed narrator. Lloyd is well known for his silver screen roles in Game of Thrones and Robin Hood and, with a string of successes in the theatrical world already under his belt, it doesn’t seem too surprising to now see him at the helm of a one-man show. He was drawn to Dostoyevsky’s novella after receiving the work from his brother as a Christmas present and fuelled by a desire to stage the existentialist text, he contacted French director Gerald Garutti, who went on to co-write the piece with Lloyd and direct the production.
As the audience enters into the 100-seat black box, Lloyd welcomes them with endearing nods and gestures to empty seats. A foul, brown cloak restrains him, covering his entire body except for a solitary arm and foot; he uses these lone appendages to great effect in the opening sequence. They complement his spiteful confessions by presenting him as an asymmetrical figure whose physical disarray matches his mental unrest. As he stands, the cape drops and he begins to pummel the book-strewn floor in a fevered monologue of contempt and yearning. He invites all in attendance to journey with him through memories of social isolation, from school-‘mates’ who showed him no interest to his girl, Liza, who bore the brunt of his psychopathic ramblings. The unnamed narrator is bewitched by his twisted enjoyment of his own suffering, which poisons his ability to coincide with the greater society. Instead he retreats to the depths of the underground where he torments himself with philosophical riddles, and traverses back in time to ponder his own experiences. It is a literally stunning performance – in one moment, Lloyd pulls a lampshade into a vertical position and targets its ferocious light into the faces of his front row, while he lets Dostoyevsky’s words splutter from his mouth in venomous streams.
A captivating and unusual performance, Lloyd makes a successful transfer of Dostoevsky’s novella from print to stage. We now eagerly await the remainder of The Print Room’s autumn season and updates regarding the building’s restoration.
Notes From Underground is playing at The Print Room until 1 November. For tickets and further information see The Print Room website.