Idiots

The act of judging is at the centre of The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s 19th century masterpiece about a naïve and simple minded prince in St Petersburg. Jonnie Bayfield, Idiots’ leading man, on the other hand urges his audience not to do the same; “the tone may shift, but tones are meant to be shifted” he warns; “it’s contemporary theatre” he exclaims in his freestyle monologue before the ‘true’ play begins. Yet while Idiots sets itself up for a judgement free zone in its first and arguably best 10 minutes, you can’t help feeling that often it goes too far with little result.

What’s most impressive about Idiots is its ending - wonderfully dramatic on one side and oddly moving on the other.

Split between a rough adaptation of The Idiot and a present day narrative in which Dostoyevsky has been stuck in between life and death for 130 years, Idiots handles its dual narrative well, transitioning between one with little conflict. Yet some sections of both narratives don’t quite carry through; you can tell that the scenes are directed with an attempt at innovation, yet often they don’t add anything but quirkiness to the performance, making sections seem subversive just for the sake of it.

Moreover, despite Bayfield claiming that having read The Idiot beforehand is by no means a must, this isn’t necessarily true. The show is undoubtedly entertaining without any knowledge of Dostoyevsky or his work, but the flyer given upon entrance (and so given without enough time to read) informing you about Dostoyevsky’s life, The Idiot and the origins of the production clarifies a lot within the show and makes you frustrated that this information wasn’t given to you in advance.

However, despite flaws in its narrative, the strength of the production pulls it through. All the performers are outstanding, especially Adam Colborne as an insufferable bureaucrat, who pulls off his character’s arc with class. Jonathan Hopwood’s live score is also a highlight; heightening both the comedy and drama within performance, while also creating mood and tension, his electric guitar almost steals the show under everyone’s noses.

Yet what’s most impressive about Idiots is its ending - wonderfully dramatic on one side and oddly moving on the other. Its end, however, cannot save it from its biggest flaw: while Idiots is interesting to watch, it rarely gets past being anything but intriguing.

Reviews by Will Roberts

The Assembly Rooms

Immigrant Diaries: Sajeela Kershi and Guests

★★★★
Laughing Horse @ The Newsroom

Sajeela Kershi: Shallow Halal

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Chris Dugdale: Sleightly Dishonest

★★★
Just the Tonic at The Mash House

Ally Houston: Shandy

★★
The Assembly Rooms

Tom Stade: You’re Welcome!

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Dostoyevsky is on benefits. He's also dead. Stagnating in 130 years of writer's block the novelist is forced to justify his flawed existence at the hands of The Bureaucrat. A subversive pilgrimage inspired by the life and works of the trailblazing author, Idiots is an existential parable about the cost of life, humanity and being a speck of dust on the sleeve of the cosmos. Award-winning troupe Caligula's Alibi premiere Idiots, following sell-out runs and critical acclaim. ***** (Scotsman), **** (FestivalJournal.co.uk), **** (BroadwayBaby.com), **** (ThreeWeeks), **** (TheNewCurrent.co.uk), **** (LondonTheatre.co.uk). Expert’s Choice, Stage, Pick of the Week Award, Vault Festival.