Dmitry ★★★ Marylebone Theatre | Sep 29 - Nov 5, 2022

This is the inaugural production of the lovely new Marylebone Theatre. Dmitry believes himself to be the son of Ivan IV and thinks that he has escaped assassination by the current occupier of the Russian throne, Boris Godunov. As the legitimate heir, he is encouraged by Polish and Roman Catholic interests to invade his native country. The first act of the play deals with that invasion and the question of whether Dmitry is who he believes himself to be. Dmitry is affirmed in his belief by the dowager Czarina, Maria, but the question becomes is she just using the young man to get revenge on the usurping Godunov, and is Dmitry just a pawn in the political games of Polish and Roman Catholic forces. The work abounds with intrigue and chronicles a complicated era of Russian history that might act to explain Russia's ongoing suspicion of the west and its intentions. Unfortunately, the somewhat byzantine plot overwhelms any interest the audience might have in the characters themselves. The decision to present the story in verse also distances us from the people involved, and sympathy for Dmitry and his dilemmas is somewhat lost. Indeed, the human dimension never really resonates. For us, the exceptions to this impression were Daniel York Loh as Boris Godunov and Poppy Miller as the former Czarina. His portrayal of the vicious love of power and her expressions of loss combined with a desire for vengeance rang true even through the dense plotting and elevated text. The choice of music for the production is curious, from the opening discordant clamour through the adaptation of Rimsky-Korsakov's melody which became "Stranger in Paradise." Similarly, the decision to stage the production in mostly modern dress didn't always work for us. Nevertheless, Dmitry is an interesting work that explores a convoluted period in Russian history which may offer some insight into the country's continuing, almost paranoid, nationalism – plus, the new Marylebone Theatre is a delightful addition to the London theatrical landscape which definitely deserves a visit.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Ellie Kurtz.

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