…Some Trace Of Her

Published July 31, 2008

Katie Mitchell is a director famous for dividing opinion with her controversial adaptations of classic literature. Her latest production, the film and stage hybrid …Some Trace Of Her, is no exception. Charlotte Marshall was in the first night audience at the National’s Cottesloe theatre.

Based on Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, Hattie Morahan (Nastasya Filipovna), Jamie Ballard (Rogozhin) and Ben Whishaw (Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin) portray the love triangle that unravels tragically before us with the author’s dramatic intensity. Myshkin, the ‘idiot’ of the piece, arrives in Russia and meets the seductive Filipovna. He is instantly entranced by her beauty and the suffering that he sees etched into her face. Falling in love with her out of pity rather than passion, their affair is tainted by the impassioned Rogozhin who is driven to insanity by his desire for Filipovna. After growing close to another woman, Myshkin is forced to choose between the two with ultimately tragic results.

As a result of Mitchell’s original and novel style, the plot’s importance comes second to the elaborate staging. Not only required to act, the cast become film crew, lighting and sound technicians. Constantly running around the stage to set up the next shot, the audience watches the majority of the play unfold on the screen at the back of the stage as the actors film one another. Projected in black and white, conversations between characters are often shown across split screens, with the characters placed either side of the stage but appearing on film as if sat across from one another. With effects such as this, and raw techniques including spraying the actor with water to demonstrate rain, or mirroring another character drinking tea while sat by a microphone in order to create sound effects, the action taking place on stage can be incredibly distracting from the story being played out on screen. However, the use of film also means expressions and subtle movements that would often be lost on stage are shown to full effect with close ups.

Combined with Dostoevsky’s emotive and intense writing, the whole effect is rather like watching an old gothic horror film, which Mitchell further intensifies with imagery of maggots and soil flashing up on screen at various points. While her unique style may not be to everyone’s taste, …Some Trace Of Her is a dramatic, intriguing piece of theatre that is sure to spark debate.

CM