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Review of IDIOTS by Caligula’s Alibi at VAULT Festival

Idiots posterThere have been some marvellous shows as part of this year’s Vaults Festival and “Idiots” the latest production from ‘Caligula’s Alibi is another to add to the list. In the, slightly bastardised words of Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Johnnie Bayfield) was dead to begin with.

In fact the acclaimed writer has been dead around 130 years and is currently living – well maybe inhabiting is a better word given his circumstances – in purgatory waiting for the final judgement and decision as to whether his robe will be red or white. Life (sorry, it’s a habit) isn’t too bad for FD. He has good neighbours, including other dead authors, television personalities and his Bridge partner, a much loved, very cheerful rotund, pink and yellow bloke from the property above. So, all is well until there is a knock at the door and in comes The Bureaucrat (Adam Colborne) who has arrived to carry out that final assessment.

Whilst following this story, the audience are also treated to excerpts from Dostoyevsky’s famous, considered by many to be almost biographical, book “Idiots” examining the relationship between Prince Myshkin (Jonnie Bayfield), Parfyon Rogozhin (Stewart Agnew) and his fiancé Nastasya Fillipovna (Jessica Lee-Hopkins) and talk about a love triangle. Parfyon doesn’t necessarily love Nastasya (who really doesn’t seem keen either) but he has bought her and there she belongs to him. However, Myshkin does love Nastasya (who seems to reciprocate) but is cowed by the menacing Parfyon so must withdraw leaving everyone pretty much unhappy.

Directed and written by Will Cowell and Jonnie Bayfield “Idiots” is a lovely show from start to finish. I thought the opening scene where Jonnie’s Dostoyevsky interacts directly with the audience, not only setting the scene but, in what I thought was a lovely twist, exposing how many of us (me included) had heard of him but never actually got around to reading anything of his was especially well put together and delivered. All of the cast were really good and I loved Adam Colborne’s Bureaucrat as he moved from procedure obsessed functionary to human being over the course of his time with the writer. The incidental music and ‘party sound effects’ by Jonathan Hopwood fitted in perfectly and moved this both funny and moving performance between the review and the book in superb style.

In the programme notes the writer/directors say “Idiots” is a show still in development but, going by the performance I saw, there is not that more to do to this pretty impressive show that adds to the class of the entire Vaults 2015 Festival.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Purgatory, some time ago. For 130 years Fyodor Dostoevsky has been haunting a tenement block awaiting judgment. Following notice of his eviction – and his increasingly fierce epilepsy – a bureaucrat questions his benefit claim, forcing Fyodor to settle his unfinished business and battle his demons; some of which happen to be his finest creations.

Wild, witty and utterly unapologetic, IDIOTS sees Caligula’s Alibi splash a corrosive streak of anarchic graffiti across the dusty pages Dostoevsky’s cerebral novel.

The production is the next step in Caligula’s development of ‘Contemporary Absurdism’ which aims to bring theatre of the absurd to the modern audience. IDIOTS is an atmospheric exposé of what it is to be a human, an artist and a speck of dust on the sleeve of the cosmos. All done with the company’s mischievous wit and cavalier charm.

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Saturday 14th February 2015

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