Extra Review: Notes from the Underground

AN accompanying piece to the well-received current production of Crime and Punishment, staged within the confines of Citizens Theatre’s small circle studio — it’s a tall order for any theatre company, let alone a new one staging its debut show.

But it’s a challenge which Visiting Company has embraced with relish — and the result is a rather successful 70 minute reimagining of Dostoyevsky’s earlier novella, Notes from the Underground.

Artistic director Debbie Hannan has updated the tale of a socially-inept anti-hero caught up in both the desire to please, and growing disgust with, his peers and the world around him.

Underpinning this version is a modern-day obsession with social media — with chronicling each thought and detail of day-to-day life — playing with the fact that the story is narrated by an older version of our hero recording his diary on video.

Smartphones and tablets crop up cleverly throughout, and the audience is invited into the screen — to see the world through the eyes of our guide, the underground man.

What makes the show is a standout performance by Samuel Keefe; engaging, bitter and increasingly maniacal — deplorable and sympathetic all at the same time.

Milly Turner provides much-needed fragility as the only other character, Liza, and the interactions between the two are powerful, seething scenes of lust, potential love before inevitable disgust and despair.

There are much-needed laughs, but the ending packs an emotional punch felt even more in the dark confines of the circle studio.

If Notes from the Underground is a sign of things to come from the southside director and co, then roll on the next Visiting Company production.

Watch artistic director Debbie Hannan and assistant producer Lucy Hinnie talk about their new venture, staging Dostoyevsky and what’s next for Visiting Company in the video above.