Diary of a Madman
A one-man show based on a classic short story
This article is from 2016.
This one-man adaptation of Gogol's perhaps most famous work tells the story of Poprishchin, a civil servant in early 19th-century Russia, and his irreversible descent into madness. The show starts as Poprishchin is already in an insane asylum, and each of his diary entries quickly grows stranger than the last.
As the days go by – indicated by a change in stage lighting and a jarring sound – Poprishchin learns the woman he loves will marry another man, as he increasingly loses touch with reality and believes he can speak with dogs.
The character's isolation and madness are beautifully explored through the stage design – the floor is strewn with letters that rustle under the actor's bare feet, and a white sheet turns into a cloak when Poprishchin believes himself to be King. But while Antoine Robinet shines in dramatic scenes, his unvarying intensity, even in lighter moments, fails to highlight Gogol's dark comedic lines.
Due to the constant physical intensity with which the character is portrayed, the monologue remains the main indication of his increasing madness – with the exception of skilfully directed scenes where Robinet escapes the confines of the stage, reflecting Poprishchin's spiralling mental decline. It remains a faithful, if overly dramatic, take on Gogol's classic short story.
Institut français d'Écosse, until 28 Aug, 4pm, £10 (£8).