GBC Theatre draws you into the world of Anna Karenina

Annie Tuma and Graham Conway in George Brown Theatre’s production of Anna Karenina.  Photo by Andrew Oxenham

Annie Tuma and Graham Conway in George Brown Theatre’s production of Anna Karenina. Photo by Andrew Oxenham

The students of George Brown Theatre took center stage in the premiere of their production of Anna Karenina. A play based on the classic realist fiction novel of the same name by author Leo Tolstoy. 

The story takes place in Moscow, Russia, in the 1800s, and involves aristocratic families searching for love and freedom. Status was everything, and to betray one’s expected role would only lead to despair. Our titular character, Anna Karenina, gets involved in an affair and becomes an outcast.

It was easy to be drawn into their world. The actors compelled the audience through intense emotion and dynamic movement. Movement itself was a major component throughout the performance. The background movement especially, keeping the audience engaged in some of the less exciting moments. You would see the cast dancing and narrating, keeping the scenes alive and the audience connected. This helped the characters tell their stories in a more interesting way.

Though the costumes were convincing enough, there were no real props to speak of. The setting had a dark shadow cast over the stage, leaving much to the audience’s imagination, which would actually work in the show’s favour.

Now the real reason to see any play; the actors themselves. You would hardly know these are students, as they left it all on the stage.

Annie Tuma, playing Anna Karenina, gave a passionate showing. Also notable was the performance by François Macdonald playing her husband Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin a high-ranking government official and despicable villain—it was easy to root for our protagonist.

Supporting roles were also well executed.

Alexandrovna Oblonskaya (Dolly) was a supporting character played by Caitlin Fysh. The intensity which she portrayed her role, resonated throughout the show. One of the more likable characters, Konstantin Dmitrich Levin served as a story parallel story to Anna’s. Played by Iain Moggach he held his own believably as a main character. The audience wanted to learn what happened next to the characters as we learned more about them,

This could have been difficult to pull off given the large cast. However, time was used effectively as the play clocks in at just under two hours with no intermission.

If there is a weakness it would have to be the actual depth of the characters. More could have been done to humanize them. Also, some people may be turned off by the genre. However, as mentioned the cast more than made up for these issues with their engaging performances.

The production is worth seeing especially considering this is the class’s first professional performance. The artistic direction ultimately provides a unique take on a timeless classic. Keeping an open mind, fans of Tolstoy and newcomers alike can both appreciate this passionate production.

Anna Karenina will run every other day from April 7-18. Students can buy tickets for $8 and GBC alumni for $15.

3.5 stars out of 5.

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GBC Theatre draws you into the world of Anna Karenina