Thursday, June 7, 2018


By Nicolai Gogol
Adapted by David Holman
Developed by Geoffrey Rush and Neil Armfield
Directed by Caroline Stacey
The Street Theatre to 16 June

Reviewed by Len Power 6 June 2018

Written in 1835, Nicolai Gogol’s short story, ‘Diary Of A Madman’, details the gradual descent into insanity of a low-ranking Russian civil servant.  Told in the first person in a diary format, the story, in David Holman’s adaptation, becomes a powerful play with a formidable central role of civil servant, Poprishchin.

Carolyn Stacey’s production uses the limitations of the small Street Two space to great advantage.  She creates a claustrophobic and harsh environment for her actors to play out this chilling story about madness.

Imogen Keen has designed a clever, towering set of stairs and scaffolding that fills the small space from floor to ceiling extremely well.  The lighting design by Niklas Pajanti is a major achievement – complex and atmospheric and adventurous in its use of hand-held lights by the actors.  The soundscape created by Seth Edwards-Ellis is also extraordinary, constantly weaving around the onstage action to produce an eerie haunting effect that works wonderfully.

PJ Williams as Poprishchin

PJ Williams gives a tour de force performance as Poprishchin.  It’s a huge role with constantly changing emotions requiring subtlety, comic timing, broad playing and physical stamina.  Williams retains total control of every aspect of his character and is totally believable from start to finish.  His final scenes in the asylum are sadly disturbing.

Lily Constantine as charwoman, Touvi

Lily Constantine also shines in the multiple roles of Touvi, the Finnish charwoman, Sophia, the daughter of The Director and Tatiana, an inmate of the asylum.  She gives us three very different and believable characters.

Director, Carolyn Stacey, has done a fine job with all aspects of this production.  She has obtained excellent performances of great depth from her actors, bringing out the humour as well as the pathos in the story.  She has combined this with high level production values as well.

This production of ‘Diary Of A Madman’ is a memorable theatrical experience that is funny, chilling and very moving.

Photos by Mike Jackson

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.