Theatre Review: A Hero of Our Time, Arcola, Hackney

Olivery Bennett as Pechorin in A Hero of Our Time

Olivery Bennett as Pechorin in A Hero of Our Time - Credit: Archant

A pacy, inventive adaptation of Lermontov’s novel offers energy but not necessarily emotional connection

Olivery Bennett as Pechorin in A Hero of Our Time

Olivery Bennett as Pechorin in A Hero of Our Time - Credit: Archant

A Hero Of Our Time

Arcola Theatre

Adapting a little-known Russian text from 1840 and presenting it with a fresh enough twist to seduce a 21st century audience is an imperious challenge that should be tackled by only the most intrepid of theatrical explorers.

How do you dust it down, give it a spring clean and yet preserve its integrity? And how faithful must you ultimately be?

HUNCHtheatre’s energetic reading of Mikhail Lermontov’s novel answers these questions by thrusting itself firmly forward with modernisation in mind. The source might consist of five different sections but, for the purpose of packing in an explosive 70 minutes of theatre, they carve out their play from the longest section alone.

Two young soldiers are resting in a quiet town when bored mischief-maker Pechorin (Oliver Bennett) sees an enigmatic woman breeze into town. It is Princess Mary (Scarlett Saunders), and she also catches the eye of his pal Grushnitsky (James Marlowe).

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They both vy for her affections. Over time, their teasing tussle and rivalry gives way to something more sinister and final and their catastrophic fallout reaps devastating consequences.

Some might feel the potency of the narrative is lost as the tale is rattled through at such a frenetic rate the audience is left breathless, struggling to wrap their giddy heads around what is placed before them.

The other side of this coin is that the direction and execution is so wonderfully inventive, creative and ingenious that there is no opportunity for boredom. From a modest staging, there are exciting surprises on offer.

Bennett is particularly charismatic as the Byronic antihero Pechorin: displaying dashing, daring devilment in abundance.

His nihilism invites all of the pernicious impulses that you might find in the dark depths of human nature, whilst Marlow and Saunders more than hold their own.

The high velocity vim and vigour that propels this frisky take on A Hero of Our Time is both its blessing and its curse, leaving audiences shaken, but not necessarily (emotionally) stirred.