Review: Dmitry, Marylebone Theatre - interesting story but stylistically it didn't gel
Written by Peter Oswald and Alexander J Gifford 'after' an unfinished play by Friedrich Schiller, Dmitry is the story of the much loved, youngest son of the Tzar of Russia who was murdered - or was he?
Years later, when a young man turns up in Poland wearing Dmitry's jewelled crucifix but knowing nothing of his past other than he grew up in a monastery, people believe he is the beloved Tzarevich and rally behind him.
It is a story about identity and what that means against a backdrop of religious and political manoeuvring. It's also a play about the future direction of Russia as Dmitry (Tom Byrne), backed by an uneasy alliance of Polish Catholics and Russian Orthodox Cossacks, marches on Moscow to claim his rightful place as Tsar.
And it's a bold play to launch the new 200-seat Marylebone Theatre, bold in that it clocks in at nearly 3 hours (including an interval).
At times it rocks along at a satisfyingly rapid pace with plotting, countermoves and in-fighting. The sense of jeopardy grows, although it's not a case of 'if' but rather 'when'.
But at other times, it is loaded with stodgy exposition and wordy speeches, that do little to move things along.
There are some odd production choices which pull you out of the story. Modern costumes, grungy heavy metal music and sporadic segments of movement give it a contemporary feel but the performances and delivery often feel like it would sit better in a more traditional production. It didn't quite gel.
Then there are a couple of characters that are borderline caricature or comic. A Scottish Governess who only speaks Latin and the leader of the Cossacks, with a big beard and hat, bomber jacked and bullet belt. He has an almost comic-book-villain demeanour. Both drew some chuckles.
With an invasion as a central plot point, it doesn't feel like a spoiler to say several characters don't live happily ever after. The killings were handled in an interesting and imaginative way, with 'bodies' getting up and walking slowly away while everyone else is focused on the place they fell.
That said, the idea of spirits leaving their bodies is extended to moments with ghosts that didn't match the overall tone.
Dmitry has a fascinating story at its heart and left a lot of food for thought, but the play and production felt like it was trying to do too much stylistically and not quite delivering.
It detracted from the main story, and as a result, what is a long play felt long.
I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️.
Dmitry, Marylebone Theatre
Written by Peter Oswald and Alexander J Gifford after Friedrich Schiller
Directed by Tim Supple
Running time: 2 hours and 50 minutes, including an interval.
Booking until 5 November; for more details and to book tickets, head to the Marylebone Theatre website.
Eureka Day, Old Vic Booking until Oct 31 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Rose, Park Theatre Booking until Oct 15 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Theatre in the diary:
Good, Harold Pinter Theatre
The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes, BAC