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The Dream of a Ridiculous Man | Marylebone Theatre

The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in 1877 as a short story, and adapted for stage and directed by Laurence Boswell, is a fantastical metaphor for the impact of mankind. Interrupting the life of "The Man", the audience gets a glimpse into his private life wherein he's struggling to remain hopeful or happy. Depressed with himself and his life, the reassurance of a gun in his hand is his only anchor and is a chilling undertone to today's society.

Adapted for the modern audience, the play is now set in London, with frequent references to the British way of living and naming boroughs that the audience will be familiar with, gaining chuckles and a sense of being too close to home from the audience. Presented as universal, the audience are able to relate to an aspect of the man, and find themselves re-examining their own lives. 

Transported from this dreary existence, an encounter with a young refugee child and the implications of this interaction helps melt away from the grey existence and inspires his dream. Often self-described as "ridiculous", the extended dream feels surreal as he explores an untouched "paradise". In what appears to be the perfect meeting of past and the future, a Utopian society and peaceful way of living dominates the most part of the dream. However the play's most powerful turning point comes from a spiralling of all that is wrong with the world, due to a slight interruption from the man. The growing implications of this butterfly effect, results in a tantalising change and ripples through. In a circle of life moment, we revert to the initial dreary existence, yet now with a flicker of hope for change and the burden of guilt and responsibility. 

The dream of a Ridiculous Man, originally written to be read, is a challenge to bring to stage, but between Writer Boswell, performer Greg Hicks and excellent work from the design team, tackles that feat with ease. Whilst there isn't a straightforward story to follow, the overall arc is clear and we never feel lost. 

Greg Hicks, as the sole performer, does a brilliant job as the unnamed storyteller. Whether it's the hazy stumbling through a dream like reality, or an unnerving moment of considering suicide with a gun in hand, or the clever moments of physicality with an imagined young child, Hicks brings out the essence of mankind, acting with his entirety. He retains the audience's attention for the entire 75 minutes, and has a clear approach on bringing the audience along for the ride. Despite the rather wordy material, Hicks makes it seem effortless, pulling from within and delivering a truly outstanding performance. 

However, the design team led by Loren Elstein are the greatest aspect of this stage adaptation. Using a simple backdrop and minimal props, the team have created a trance and slightly distorted world that both allows the audience to feel transported into the man's dream, whilst also appreciating it from an external perspective. Lighting design (Ben Ormerod) creates a mystical feeling with rippling cloud and fog effect, the manifestation of the internal voice, a shadow of this paradise and multi-coloured tomes to defuse and create tension. Sound Designer (Gary Sefton) and composer (Harrison White) both work together to create an ethereal sensation in the dream world, whilst also bringing the bustling background sounds of London within the theatre. Another clever moment is carefully surrounding the audience with these sounds, drawing us into their world. 

The Dream of a Ridiculous Man is a courageous and innovative play that reflects on the impact that one man and one voice can have on the world. A beautiful meeting of words and visuals, and strong performances helps create this thought-provoking play. Ultimately calling for change, this play might just be the wake up call that London needs. The Dream of a Ridiculous Man runs at Marylebone Theatre until 20th April - for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Mark Senior


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