Grushenka adapted by Rodney Fisher from F.Dostoyevski's novel The Brothers Karamazov. Kropka Theatre: solo performer Jolanta Juszkiewicz directed by Rodney Fisher. Canberra National Multicultural Festival at The Street Theatre Studio March 10-13, 1999, 7.30pm.
In this brief 30 minute etude polonaise, Polish actress Jolanta Juszkiewicz plays on the white keys of anger and the black keys of despair with equal precision, but I found that Rodney Fisher's attempt to encapsulate Dostoyevski's character Grushenka fails to match the drama of a Chopin study.
Without the full context of the novel and without Dostoyevski's objective slightly sardonic authorial tone, this snippet of Grushenka's conflicted feelings as she waits to face again the man who has seduced her - Does she love him? Or might she kill him? - leaves not only her situation unresolved, but ours in the audience as well. We wanted to thank the performer for her undoubtedly sincere and skilful effort, yet hesitated because the script did not give us a frame for clearly understanding the picture of this woman.
If Chopin's etudes are complete within themselves, then this script seems to need an image of Dostoyevski watching his misogynist creation with the contempt that one imagines he had for his real-life admirer Apollinaria Suslova, who refused to accept that "Women have but one calling in life - to be housewives and mothers." This would give us a context within which we could see the relevance of presenting Grushenka. Reading matter in the program cannot replace the necessary theatrical device.
Mind you, the crowd in The Street foyer waiting to go into the main theatre meant Juszkiewicz and her audience had to cope with considerable background noise - not conducive to such intimate theatre. The acting held me, nevertheless (but bright spotlights on the audience before and after the performance were a serious distraction). Re-read The Brothers Karamazov today, then go to see this meticulously presented character study by Kropka Theatre.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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