The Double: Ustinov Studio, Bath
Ustinov Studio, Bath
Delusion, madness, paranoia and puppetry are thrown together into this ingeniously-crafted adaptation of Dostoevsky's novel by the Ustinov's own artistic director Laurence Boswell.
The result is an intriguing, funny, touching and ultimately mystifying experience that sucks you in and spits you out.
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Is the protagonist Goliadkin – played superbly by Simon Scardifield – mad or is there really a conspiracy against him? Is the narrator – another excellent performance by Rob Edwards – to be trusted? And is Goliadkin's doppelganger, which gets him into such trouble, real or imagined?
It's hard to tell what is true and what is not – and this is what Boswell's adaptation exploits so brilliantly in his use of puppetry.
Beautifully crafted miniature puppets portray minor characters at a ball, and hilariously mime the writing of a letter, while a life-size puppet embodies the doppelganger Goliadkin junior.
There's a wonderful scene in which the two Goliadkins get drunk together that relies entirely on Scardifield's perfect timing along the skills of the three puppeteers.
Scardifield portrays a man descending into madness, or being driven to a breakdown by events beyond his comprehension, initially tentatively and then increasingly displaying a looser and looser grip on what has been his everyday life.
We never really know why his benefactor had dropped him, or whether he ever had any hope of winning the hand of his beloved Klara, or even if her marriage to someone else is what tipped him over the edge.
All we witness is one man's descent into chaos, his rantings at his supposed enemies and his misplaced trust in an assortment of grasping, self-seeking servants.
And if that makes this play sound depressing, it isn't. It's brilliantly conceived and executed, the small cast are excellent in all their numerous roles and every movement is perfectly choreographed.
The Double runs until December 22.