A Hero of our Time@ Zoo
A Hero of our Time@ Zoo

A Hero of our Time @ Zoo

4/5 stars
Feature by Eleanor Jones.
Published 24 August 2011

A Hero of Our Time, an early example of the Russian psychological novel, has a Byronic anti-hero for a leading man, a continual sense of forthcoming tragedy, and oft-quoted dialogue. In short, the only problem for a theatrical adaptation is the romantic setting, deep in the Caucasus Mountains. In this, the first, dramatic adaptation, Alex McSweeney focusses the action on the largest section of the novel, set in a spa town, and uses the backdrop of Pechorin’s adventures in the Caucasus to delve further into the character of Pechorin, whom the novel, and the play, is essentially about.

Alex McSweeney’s adaptation, from the first scene, imbues his play with a sense of death. Gambling with their lives to prove or disprove an argument about pre-destination, the soldiers question the nature of, and their control over, death. This echoes on throughout the play in Pechorin’s nihilistic attitudes fuelled by his disillusionment with his life.

Love, or more accurately, the capacity to love is intensely portrayed by the performers, as they struggle with the danger and heartbreak that Pechorin has led them to. The performances were all superbly enacted and the cast complemented each other: the Doctor’s assured confidence and level-headedness bounced off the soldiers’ pleasure and society seeking attitudes, and Pechorin’s cynicism had meat to feed on in the comedic performance of James Price as a buffoonish Grushnitsky.

In the final confrontation between Pechorin and Princess Mary, the internal struggle of Peter Wicks’ Pechorin was eloquently performed ranging from a desperate self-loathing and need for redemption through Princess Mary’s idealism and hope, to a cruel desire to wound her and be left to his own desolation.

The play left me with an intense frustration with Pechorin; the architect of his own destiny, and yet not, as his character is formed through his interaction with the world and its disappointments. The play leaves the initial question of pre-destination versus existentialism open, and my frustration with Pechorin reflects how much I invested in the characters. The cast was among the best that I have seen so far this Fringe.

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