The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Attic Theatre Company @ Merton Arts Space

6 – 29 October 2017

Adapted by Stephen Sharkey, based on the novella by Leo Tolstoy
Performed by Jack Tarlton
Directed by Jonathan Humphreys

death of ivan

I often struggle to enjoy Russian text. It leaves me feeling like I’ve been hitting my head against the wall, either from the density, or because it’s reading-the-news level of depressing. Attic Theatre Company’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a wonderful exception.

In this one-man adaption of the classic Tolstoy novella by Stephen Sharkey, we join Ivan Ilyich in the afterlife as he walks us through how he came to be there. It’s a contemplation of mortality, and a confronting examination on the meaning of life. It’s energy is superb, and the storytelling and character pull you through in a way that is both tender and ultimately human.

The atmosphere is wonderful. Globes of light sit on round tables through which Ivan roams, masterfully creating the impression that we’re witnessing a séance. Or as a fellow audience member described it, ‘Hogwarts 2.0’.

A one-person show rests entirely on the performer’s shoulders, and with Tarlton we are in safe hands. His performance is engaging and intimate, bringing Ivan to life in a way that feels like he’s joined us straight from 19th century St. Petersburg, which his Scottish accent oddly suits. He times his beats wonderfully, for both laughs or impact, creating a complex, dimensional character.

It’s a memorable production from a local theatre company worth supporting.

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