The 15-strong cast who play over 70 characters are superb throughout. But the real achievement here lies in Helen Edmundson’s adaptation which, since the play first appeared in 1996, has been expanded into two parts that can be seen on the same day or on consecutive evenings.
Edmundson finds her way into the vastness of Tolstoy’s book via a modern-day tourist who arrives at St Petersburg’s Hermitage museum just before closing time. Tolstoy’s characters emerge as ghosts from the aristocratic portraits, and Meckler and Teale use the idea for their production’s recurring motif, with much of the action played out within gilt picture frames.
Where the co-directors falter is with the battle scenes, at one stage inadequately conveyed with the choreographed waving of handkerchiefs. But the lucidity of Edmundson’s adaptation, the skill with which she threads into her play Tolstoy’s theme about the mirage of an individual’s free will, makes a daunting six hours fly by. ( Tel: 020 7722 9301) Emma, be very un-British. Her job is to help a diverse group of immigrants pass their British citizenship test. Their reward — a mayor’s handshake and the rights of a British citizen.
Mahmood wants them so he can claim a house in Pakistan without fear of arrest; for Tetyana, it means she can escape her overbearing Muslim husband. There are others, and whatever their religion, all have to learn the new official bible called Living in UK.
Edgar’s narrative — well performed in Matthew Dunster’s Out of Joint production — is good on the absurdities and anomalies of defining this nation’s culture. But we get little chance to care about his protagonists’ condition. Though Jews are cited as early examples of immigration, Edgar seems to have missed a trick in identifying how immigrant attitudes have changed since then. Where once most felt gratitude towards their adopted country, many now harbour resentment. ( Tel: 020 7328 1000)