The BCT is in the cellar of The Curtain Up pub on Comeragh Road, West Kensington. Just around the corner from Baron’s Court tube. The big pork pies and scotch eggs on the bar were a nice touch and there’s a little restaurant out the back.
The theatre is small. Tiny. The blurb says that it holds sixty people. Perhaps but the impression is of something far smaller. The arches of the cellar are still intact and the stage is a small area in the middle. The audience sit all around the stage and there is not a lot of room. Stage lights hang over your head and an occasional bang from the pub upstairs or raucous laughter from stairs reminds you that you are in a pub. However, the theatre has tremendous atmosphere and immediately.
My first thought was that Crime and Punishment might be quite a challenge for such a small venue but considering that much of the story is based around the inner angst of the main character a small venue aught not to be a problem.
As we entered and sat down, we chatted and noticed that a man sat on a small bed before us. This was Raskolnikov played by James Kingdon. As the play began Raskolnikov revealed himself as a man tortured by the conflict between his high sentiments and the poverty of his circumstances. Much of the story is the raving of Raskolnikov and with the set so sparse and the audience no further away than other actors Kingdom gave a robust performance, maintaining his character and carrying the fantasy.
Raskolnikov’s sister, Dounia, is played by Joanna O’Connor who also directs and Christopher Gutmann gives a comic rendition of Dounia’s betrothed, Luzhin, reminiscent of Green Wing’s Alan Statham.
Abridging a novel such as C&P into two hours must be incredibly difficult but, for me, no key moments were missed. One such is the moment when Raskolnikov and the detective, Porfiry played by Christopher Gutmann, are discussing the crime and Raskolnikov asks innocently “Then who did commit the murder?” and Porfiry replies guilelessly: “Why you did”. If anything I thought that the play drifted occasionally and might have been a little more punchy in such a restricted environment.
We emerged into the pub for a couple of drinks before departing and I noticed that the cast were also refreshing themselves. I was impressed to learn that they would be alteranting Crime and Punishment with Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT / TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES (In repertoire)
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky / by Thomas Hardy
Director: James Baker / Connie Stephens
Cast: Lucy Fenton, Emma Hay, Robin Holden, James Kingdon, Joanna O’Connor, Jonathan Sanger.