“Lolita” by Theatre Collection at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre ***
Victor Sobchak and Chris Diacopolous presented a new version of “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre. Sobchak staged this novel numerous times and we saw his version in Russian a couple of years ago, this time he staged it in English with a new cast, apart from Lolita’s mum Charlotte, who was performed in both productions by Elena Knight.
New adaptation is quite unusual because Humbert is performed by two actors: George Xander acts as Humbert and Harry Revell, stated in the programme as Nabokov, reads out his diary. This is quite an interesting move that emphasizes the conflict within the character. As always with Sobchak the performance is full of witty and unusual ideas of the director: dead characters appear on stage and take part in action, two Humberts interact with each other, colorful lighting helps to create a tense atmosphere on stage and music provokes mixed emotions. However, the performance doesn’t seem to have been rehearsed long enough as the acting appears to be very uneven.
This is a huge problem for the fringe theatres as director and actors work in extremely difficult conditions, often almost without any money and are allowed a very short time for the rehearsals, so everything is built on their love for the art of theatre. That’s why it is extremely important for the director to give the actors the best opportunity to shine in the production.
Lolita performed by Caroline Koziol doesn’t seem to be given clear instructions regarding what to perform and she mainly keeps inflating her chewing gum, you can’t see real drama or transformation in her character.
Humbert performed by George Xander is quite thoughtful and enigmatic but seems sluggish at times. His reactions towards Charlotte who tries to seduce him are quite obvious: he dislikes her, while in the novel he uses his charmes on her too. It isn’t actually clear why all the women in the play are so attracted to him and he seems to be as astonished at their advances as the audience.
Elena Knight becomes the real star of the new production, creating a really funny, moving and controversial character. One moment you can see true longing for love in Charlotte’s eyes and the next moment you laugh at the ways she tries to attract Humbert.
Russian actress Elena Knight also impresses with the way she performs in a foreign language: her pronunciation seems perfectly clear and her speech is very articulate. It is always great to see high-standard acting and it is worth to go to see this production of “Lolita” because of Elena Knight’s performance.
Another character that stands out in the production is Maxine Howard's Constance, a mature widow, shamelessly offering herself to Humbert at the funerals of Charlotte. The actress performs her desperate bid to win Humbert over with such wit and conviction that she gets a great reaction from the audience.
It is good that Victor Sobchak stages performances in both Russian and English and gives his actors an opportunity to perform in best classical plays and novels. It would be fantastic if he could find a way to rehearse his productions longer in order to enable every aspiring or young actor to shine on stage on the same level as the real professionals taking part in his productions.