This play—this brilliant play—is a jigsaw of ideas. It starts off with a bonkers premise: Dostoyevsky, dead, and stuck in purgatory for 130 years. He’s downbeat and drunk on his own genius—and on top of having a string of irritating neighbours, he’s about to be investigated for benefit fraud. Slowly, this present day existence is inter-cut with a stripped-to-the-bone adaptation of The Idiot—Dostoyevsky’s most autobiographical work—and his whole world begins to unravel.
It shouldn’t work—and in less skilled hands, it really wouldn’t—but Caligula’s Alibi pull it off with amazing aplomb. Tears of laughter fall, only to be replaced by a seat shifting sense of unease. It is dark and sticky and intimate and fucking hilarious and deeply uncomfortable, and above all, Russian with a capital R. All at once. It’s masterfully anarchic, without ever losing control.
A great debt is due to the cast, who are as gifted at comic timing as they are at illustrating the miseries of the human condition. Jonnie Bayfield (Dostoyevsky) when in wild, rambling mood, has shades of a young Eddie Izzard; so full of words and ideas he can barely contain his passion. Stewart Agnew (Rogozhin) is dangerously still, with an intensity that feels violating to watch. Jessica-Lee Hopkins (Nataysha), is vulnerable and vicious; a damaged soul wrapped around furious indignation. The Beaurecrat (Adam Colbourne) is maddening, measured, and just a few moments from cracking up.
Together, they have cooked up a triumph.