Dmitry is based on the unfinished play Demitrius by Friedrich von Schiller. You can see the influence of Shakespeare in Schiller’s work, and this carries through into Peter Oswald’s finished version. The big drama and sinister plots were reminiscent of Hamlet; if only these characters would tell the truth, they would save themselves a world of pain. 

Credit: Ellie Kurtz

Dmitry is the story of truth in politics and how it is twisted and manipulated for gain by self-serving players within the system. The young Dmitry (Tom Byrne) claims to be the son of Tsar Ivan IV, who all of Russia thought dead, killed by the Usurper Boris Godunov (Daniel York Loh), who now seeks his father’s throne and his birthright as the true ruler of Russia. We find Tsarina Maria, mother of Dmitry and widow of Ivan, living in exile as a nun after the death of her husband and murder of her son. She is played exquisitely by Poppy Miller who balances the grieving mother and the scheming politician with considerable skill. A part of the Shakespearean influence comes in the form of soliloquies given by multiple characters throughout the play, and Miller and Byrne do very well here in giving us an insight into the characters’ inner conflicts.

Another stand-out performance came from Aurora Dawson-Hunte as Marina, the wife of Dmitry and daughter of Prince Mnishek (Mark Hadfield), one of the key players in the manipulation of the truth. Her strength and wile in navigating the choppy waters of changing allegiances at a time in which women were expected to simply show deference was incredible to watch. Dawson-Hunte played Marina with more delicacy than might be expected of such a character, which served as a refreshing change of pace to the loud and brash men with whom she contended. 

Credit: Ellie Kurtz

Given this is not a story with which many audiences would be familiar, there is a need for a certain amount of information to be imparted. However, often these soliloquies are used as an excuse to dump a load of exposition upon the audience in the hope they understand the context in which the story takes place. It mainly served to interrupt the flow of the play and made me count the minutes until the dialogue could continue. At 2 hours and 45 minutes, Dmitry is not a short play, and so it became a little tedious at times to be handheld through the play. A bit more faith should have been placed in the audience and their ability to infer context from the actors’ interactions.   

Robert Innes Hopkins and Jackie Shemesh did a fantastic job, as designer and lighting designer respectively, in making the simple wood stage morph into a number of locations from a convent to a battlefield and to the halls of power in Moscow.

Credit: Ellie Kurtz

Dmitry is showing at the brand new (and very swanky) Marylebone Theatre until the 5th of November. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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