Common Grounds handsome adaptation of Dostoevsky is a bold triumph

One thing you can’t say about Common Ground Theatre Company is that they lack ambition. Taking on Dostoevsky is bold under any circumstance. Adapting him for the theatre is brave indeed. The Dream of a Ridiculous Man has all the hall marks of the Russian author – a nihilistic journey into the abyss (and out again) by a wise fool blessed with a revelatory dream. If that sounds like a challenging night at the theatre, it’s worth emphasising how cleverly Pat Whymark’s adaptation handles the source text, bringing clarity and emotional heft to a tale of a man intent on killing himself.

Centre stage, and commanding it throughout, was Julian Harries, who brought an authenticity and accessibility to Dostoevsky words that can be elusive when reading his dense prose. His performance was significantly enhanced by handsome staging throughout – particularly haunting were the images of the little girl that the ridiculous man turns away from. Both clever and imaginative, it was indicative of a production that had obviously been put together with care and considerable thought.

The company have carved out quite a niche for itself, bringing classic texts to a theatre audience. While there were shades of Christmas Carol in the characters redemption (a work we have previously seen them perform) this was much darker fare, albeit leavened by Common Ground’s signature musical accompaniment. It makes you wonder what they have in mind to take on next.