Sixth Form Production: Anna Karenina
The St Benedict’s Sixth Form production of Anna Karenina - adapted, directed and performed by students –brought Tolstoy’s tragic love story vividly to life in the new Studio Theatre on October 12th.
In choosing to abridge Tolstoy’s mighty 800-page novel, and craft it into an eighty-minute play, James Hunter certainly set himself an enormous challenge. Everyone who watched the performance would surely agree that he and his talented cast had succeeded in bringing the story of Anna vividly to life– her loveless marriage, her adulterous passion and her final downfall.
Here are James' thoughts on the novel, and on the experience of bringing it to the stage:
The play immediately plunged us into the action, with Part One's most powerful scene - Anna's arrival where, just after she has made eye contact with Vronsky (her fatal attraction), a guard is crushed by a train: "A bad omen," she says to her brother. The audience knew she was doomed - and they were hooked.
The cast’s excellent performances underlined the characters’ search for meaning and fulfilment; their struggle to put into words what they want to say (especially seen when Karenin confronts Anna's adultery); and their suffocation within the privileged society they inhabit. Eleanor Bowden gave a powerful performance as Anna, conveying the emotional conflict between her duty as a wife and mother and her obsessive love for Vronsky. Conan Reynolds-Imam's Alexei could not have been colder or more cruel, with his barely controlled rage and demand for ‘outward decorum’. In contrast, Oliver Kempner emphasised Vronsky's humanity and warmth. All the other characters combined brilliantly to illustrate Tolstoy’s opening statement in the novel: "Everything was in confusion in the Oblonsky household”, with Dolly - consoled and then consoling – expressively played by Darcie Hunter.
The lighting and soundtrack were expertly devised and managed by Caitlin MacGregor, heightening the dramatic tension, helping to create a canvas of 19th century Russian life.
This production of Anna Karenina revealed not only the versatility and potential of St Benedict’s new Studio Theatre, but also what can be achieved when a group of creative, determined and ambitious students take the initiative and choose to collaborate in this way.
After much appreciative applause at the end of the performance, James gave each of the cast a copy of Tolstoy’s novel, to remind them of their remarkable achievement.
Anna Eleanor Bowden
Vronsky Oliver Kempner
Dolly Darcie Hunter
Alexei Conan Reynolds-Imam
Stiva James Hunter
Annushka Lucia Orsi
Kitty Isabel Mitchell-Bruguera
Countess Vronsky Elena Russo
Betsy Ayotenu Dosumu
Princess Miagky Kaitlyn Moran
Lydia Ellen Suckley
Doctor Angelica Lawson
Unnamed 1 Niamh O’Haire
Unnamed 2 Isabel Mitchell-Bruguera
Unnamed 3 Ayotenu Dosumu
Unnamed 4 Angelica Lawson
Unnamed 5 Olivia Dodder
Unnamed 6 Niamh O’Haire
Seryozha Olivia Dodder
Lighting/Stage Management: Caitlin MacGregor
Directed by James Hunter