"very gripping and haunting production"
by Ali Sanderson for remotegoat on 16/06/14

Goblin Baby Theatre Company returns to The Space with The Devil and Stepashka written by Claire Booker. The play, inspired by a Tolstoy short story, tells the story of Zhenya, a wealthy man who murdered his former lover, Stepashka, and now stands trial for her murder. His old friend and lawyer Boris defends him, claiming it was a crime of passion. His wife Lisa is still struggling with putting together the different elements of the puzzle and figuring out what truly happened. Last, but most definitely not least, we meet Dasha, the sister of the murdered Stepashka, who is only a simple and poor peasant but very witty in her own way.

The production is gripping and thought-provoking from beginning to end and left the audience with something to ponder and think on. The theatre was used in a set-up that reminded one of a court room, with some audience members even addressed as the jury, which added further to the feeling of being a part of the play’s journeys.

The set was simple but clever. Wooden elements were used in different ways throughout various scenes and a lot of the play’s atmosphere was created through lights, shadows and projections, rather than extensive sets. Overall production designer Christopher Keech is to be congratulated for achieving a varied and detailed design, without needing many gimmicks or a big budget.

The cast of four was diverse and international but all delivered solid performances. Particularly remarkable were Dimitri Shaw as lawyer Boris, a character that essentially carries the whole play, and Tessa Hart, who portrayed both the haunting presence of the murdered Stepashka as well as her living sister Dasha, and achieved to create entirely different characters and dynamics for both roles.

Booker’s play is very brave as well as unusual and this production is one of those hidden gems on the London Fringe.

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