Diary Of A Madman

This play and wonderful performance managed to reach into my thoughts and leave me wandering around confused all day. The script achieves great things, putting the audience in the same frame of mind as a madman, and drawing out powerful messages about the balance of the human psyche. The production is an adaptation of Gogol’s work, where one man gradually drops into insanity – however the point where he becomes insane is never clear. Axenty Ivanovich is a simple civil servant in the court at St Petersburg who considers himself misunderstood genius. While his job is a quill sharpener, he envisages himself as something much greater – a minister and a gentleman at first, but his obsessions eventually take his mind far beyond the realm of plausibility. The audience view snapshots of his mind from his diary, watching while his obsessions intensify and force him into desperate circumstances. Acts of perversion such as invading a lady’s boudoir are portrayed as normality, the madman seeing the world around him change and not viewing the transition within his own head. The man's obsessions and madness see him in conversations with dogs and takes him on an trip to the Spanish court where he believes his true power and potential can be recognised. The setting is claustrophobic; with the pitch black theatre drawing our eyes to the dimly lit and squalid bed-sit of the protagonist. Small and ingenious methods are used to reflect the decline of his sanity from the irregular calendar on the wall showing sporadic time frames that lose all rationality with dates such as “182 of Martober”. Different clock metronomes blare out in points of tedium and cause the audience to lose all sense of a time scale, transporting us into the environment the madman faces. The lighting on the back wall is perfected to true literary style, reflecting the emotions and settings the man is considering. A wonderful set and a truly spectacular solo performance allow the perfectly adapted script to explore the boundary between selfhood and sanity, demonstrating the stage where people who could be genius simply become insane.

Reviews by Theo Barnes

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Performances

The Blurb

Celebrating his 200th anniversary, Gogol's classic text becomes a theatrical tour de force. Axenty's obsession tumbles towards madness via letter-writing dogs, magisterial revelations and institutional torture. 'Best Fringe Show 2007' (Time Out). www.failbetter.co.uk

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