Anna Karenina – Abbey Theatre – Review


Anna Karenina – Abbey Theatre – Review by M. Quinn

Until Saturday, 28 January 2017
Running time: 3 hours and 20 minutes including a 20 minute interval

Anna Karenina is married to Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin. He is a senior statesman and while their marriage is not the most passionate, they have a stable relationship. That is until Anna visits her brother Stiva in Moscow. He has his own problems, as his wife has just discovered that he has been unfaithful with their governess. Anna has been called to Moscow to help smooth things over between the two. While there, she has a chance encounter with Count Vronsky, a cavalry officer. This leads to an affair between the two, with complex and far reaching consequences.

This was originally a novel by Leo Tolstoy, which was published in serial instalments from 1873 to 1877. This new production has been adapted by Marina Carr for the stage and directed by Wayne Jordan. While the original novel was nearly 900 pages, this production has managed to reduce stage time to just over three hours. You can almost feel the pages fluttering past as we move at quick a clip throughout. This is a big story to attempt to tell on stage.


While the play is named after a single character, it is really an ensemble piece. This is quite evident by the late arrival of Anna Karenina on stage, with the first number of scenes carried out in her absence. There are a large number of subplots and each character has his or her own story, which only adds to the complexity.

The staging is quite simple with a red curtain serving as a backdrop. The stage is almost completely barren, with a piano on one side and train tracks at the back. Snow falls during a variety of scenes, and the furniture is carried on and off stage often by the actors themselves. Our mind is left to create the variety of stately rooms and restaurants, but it serves its purpose well, giving us just enough of the opulent lifestyle.


Carr seems mostly interested in the female characters and the role of women in society is teased apart. The best parts are reserved for the females on stage with the men serving as their foils. While the place names are still in Russia, the accents and attitudes are very much Ireland, and much of our own society is reflected in the work.

Lisa Dwan is hugely impressive in the title role. It is a difficult part to play and could fall into melodrama in the wrong hands. Barbara Brennan turns up in a number of roles to great effect and Killian Burke turns Stiva into an unusual and complex character. The humour of the production also serves well to keep it grounded. The difficulty of the story, if any, is the scale and it’s hard to hold your attention for such a long time. It is a massive and sprawling tale with so many aspects and attitudes covered. The movement and flow are typical of Jordan’s productions and work well here. It’s a rich and rewarding production that deserves to be seen.


Photography by Ros Kavanagh

Credits –

Hannah Beatty – Tanya
Barbara Brennan – Countess Vronskaya
Anthony Brophy – Nikolai
Killian Burke – Stiva
Brooke Butler – Tanya
Declan Conlon – Karenin
Alexandra Conlon – Ensemble/Understudy
Derbhle Crotty – Princess Sherbatsky
Nick Dunning – Prince Sherbatsky
Lisa Dwan – Anna Karenina
Rory Fleck Byrne – Vronsky
Rachel Lynch – Masha
Julie Maguire – Kitty
Paul Mallon – Levin
Margaret McAuliffe – Betsy
James McCann – Grisha
Ruth McGill – Dolly
Barry McKiernan – Ensemble/Understudy
Cormac Melia – Vanya/ Seryozha
Amelie Metcalfe – Masha
Ronan Millar – Grisha
Jake O’Loughlin – Vanya/ Seryozha
Andrew Synnott – Pianist
Cathal Synnott – Pianist
Cathy White -Countess Lydia Ivanovna

Marina Carr – A new version by
Wayne Jordan – Director
Sarah Bacon – Set and Costume Designer
Sinéad Wallace – Lighting Designer
David Coonan – Composer
Philip Stewart – Sound Designer
Liz Roche – Movement Director
Zoe Ní Riordáin – Assistant Director
Eimear O’Grady – Fight Director


Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review

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