Review: Anna Karenina at Arcola Theatre, Dalston

The second production in the main house of Dalston’s recently relocated Arcola Theatre is a dynamic new adaptation of the classic novel Anna Karenina.

For anyone still to tackle its 800 and something pages, Tolstoy’s great literary work tells of adultery and mortality against a backdrop of social change. Anna is the beautiful wife of a St. Petersburg government minister in 19th century Russia whose quest for love and honesty throws her into emotional turmoil and tragedy.

The rock and roll reincarnation currently at Arcola, directed by Max Webster and adapted by Helen Edmundson, is instantly exciting.

Music, both live and electronic, breathes life into the epic tale. Words become lyrics. And dance serves to highlight the drama.

Much of the set design is successful in its simplicity and there are some tender performances from the likes of Tristan Pate as Anna’s co-protagonist Lenin.

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But everything gets carried away. Sound drowns out the story and the physicality of the performance leaves audience members sniggering rather than stunned.

A microphone used at first to punctuate and pervert ends up taking centre stage – just in case the wailing is not loud enough. And emotion is missed in silence lost.

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Less was not more for Leo Tolstoy, whose mammoth masterpiece has been widely declared the greatest novel ever written. But it should have been the case for this production, where grand intentions leave it fatally flawed.

Anna Karenina runs at Arcola Theatre in Ashwin Street until April 16. Tickets cost �17 or �11 for concessions. For more information or to book call 020 7503 1646 or go to

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