Crime and Punishment is one those books that you are told is ‘really heavy going’ and to a point that is true but the audio drama brings it to life in a ‘can’t wait to see what happens next’ way.
Written by Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky and was first published in the journal ‘The Russian Messenger’ in twelve monthly installments during 1866.
It opens with Rodya Raskolnikov played by a very capable Barnaby Kay. Rodya is a deep thinking but impoverished former student who lives in a tiny rented room, the coffin as it is known, in Victorian Saint Petersburg.
He abhors mankind, they are ‘insects’ he says after he see young girls go into prostitution. His source of cash is to pawn items to a decidedly unpleasant Alyona Ivanovna, he eventually devises a plan to rob and murder her. He seems to believe that it is predetermined and there is a distinct sense of duality in his nature.
Enter drunkard Semyon Zakharovich Marmeladov, he has ruined his family by drinking the little cash they had forcing his beautiful daughter into prostitution.
And then we have his sister who seems to be marrying for money, selling herself, he finds himself drawing parallels with Sonya Marmeladov, Semyons fallen daughter.
Raskolnikov murders Alyona Ivanovna her with an axe which is quite vivid but he also has to kill her half-sister Lizzie who happens upon the scene of the crime ‘she didn’t even put her hands up’ he tells us…but it is the aftermath of his mind that the story really focuses on.
He becomes ill with a fever and obsess over the murder, paranoia creeps in to an almost a schizophrenic proportion. He hides his booty under a rock, good place eh! and desperately tries to clean any blood out of his clothes. He then collapses and enters a paranoid delirium having some odd reactions to whoever mentions the murder which is now known about and talked of throughout St Petersburg.
He trails the street deliriously drawing attention to himself and the crime and comes across Marmeladov who has been struck by a carriage, he is dead. Raskolnikov gives the remainder of his money to the beautiful Sonya
We also meet his mother and sister and find his sister has married for financial reasons which Raskolnikov sees as very much the same as prostitution and refers to Luzhin as ‘The Toad’ and forces his sister to choose between himself and The Toad, an incident happens and the toad is shown to be of loose morals.
Enter Detective Porfiry who clearly believes Raskolnikov is the murderer. Meanwhile a relationship develops between Raskolnikov and Sonya although a prostitute is also Christian only driven into the profession by her family’s poverty.
A psychological cat and mouse game develops between Raskolnikov and Porfiry who becomes sure of the guilt but has no concrete evidence, it is all circumstantial. To add to this another man admits to committing the crime under questioning but Raskolnikov’s is reaching the end is constantly struggling with the idea of confessing and it is Sonya to who he confesses.
The pressure is on for Raskolnikov who is now urged by Sonya to confess, Porfiry confronts him with his suspicions and tells him that a confession would lighten his sentence.
The epilogue finishes the story and tells us that Raskolnikov is sentenced to 8 years penal servitude where Sonya follows him telling him that she loves him and it is here that his redemption begin under Sonya’s loving influence.
A great piece, a great cast and a great production!