Theatre Review: The Power of Darkness

Words: Jared Wilson
Wednesday 04 April 2018
reading time: min, words

So what happens when Nottingham's talented young actors take on Tolstoy?



The Power of Darkness is a play by Leo Tolstoy. Written at the tail end of the nineteenth century, it was forbidden in Russia until 1902. As one might expect from the title; the subject matter of this play is not particularly jolly or light material. 

The central character is a peasant, Nikita (played by Elan Butler), who in the first act seduces and abandons a young orphan girl Marinka (Ella Harding). Then Anisija (played by Camille White-Burnett) murders her dying husband Peter (Noah Hopley-Jones) under the influence of Nikita’s mother Matryona (Tiger Cohen-Towell). She does this in an effort to seize the family fortune and marry Nikita, who seems to have his choice of women in the town.

However Nikita, newly awash with money, is going off the rails, much to the chagrin of his earnest father Akim (Joe Tutt) who warns him about his behaviour. He refuses to listen and impregnates his new stepdaughter Akoulina (Daisy Chell), then, under his wife's influence, murders the baby. From there it all gets darker and darker. 


As the fourth play in Television Workshop’s annual season, this is mature material for a group of kids and teenagers to cover. However, it’s done sensitively under the direction of Tim Evans and the sense of Russian realism expounded by Tolstoy and his contemporaries Dostoyevsky, Goncharov, Gorky and Turgenev, really comes through.

Credit also must go to the team behind a versatile set design that brings the whole thing to life and would put to shame other theatres working on twice the budget. 

This play brings to a close a wonderful season of plays at Nottingham’s Television Workshop also featuring Enron, Nell Gwynn and InstinctThis is the grass-roots acting school that has produced Samantha MortonVicky McClureJoe Dempsie, Jack O’Connell, Aisling LoftusToby KebbellBella RamsayMista Jam and many more. It's a privilege and an honour to have them based in Nottingham.

Visit the Television Workshop website

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