(Nick Ahad’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/11. Photo: Through the wringer … Adelle Leoncé (Anna) in Anna Karenina at the Crucible, Sheffield. Photograph: Marc Brenner.)

Crucible, Sheffield
With hula hoops and a giant cake, this show bashes the narrative with disco glitz but keeps tragedy at its centre

That the props department had to source a giant birthday cake, a pink flamingo inflatable swimming ring and several luminous green hula hoops for this production should tell you everything you need to know about the reverence in which the source material is held.

Director Anthony Lau, using a celebrated 1992 adaptation by Helen Edmundson, shows almost no respect for the milieu of Tolstoy’s epic masterpiece, and in thumbing his nose at the weighty reputation of the Russian’s magnum opus activates the story to create a production that is thrilling and utterly compelling.

It is all built around an absorbing performance from Adelle Leoncé as the eponymous heroine. She goes through the wringer over the course of the three-hour piece, leaving everything on the stage.

Around her, Lau makes some seriously bold choices. The costumes and staging are Baz Luhrmann-esque; indeed one scene that descends from Russian aristocratic ball to all-out disco could slip into any of the films in the Australian director’s red curtain trilogy.

Edmundson’s smartly economical storytelling has Anna and Konstantin Levin, played here by the highly watchable Dougie McMeekin, asking each other “‘where are you now?”. Standing on an empty stage Anna can tell him “I’m on a train heading for Moscow” or “I’m in an Italian town in an old, shabby palazzo” and so she is and with her we go.

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