A 21st century voice for Anna Karenina

TOLSTOY’s masterpiece Anna Karenina, widely regarded as one of the greatest novels in all literature, is reimagined for the 21st century in a new version by writer Lesley Hart, directed by Polina Kalinina, at Bristol Old Vic from 7th to 24th June.

The production is a joint venture with Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre, and follows the success of the two theatres’ co-production of Touching the Void.

Anna Karenina (played by Lindsey Campbell) is a heartbreaking story of relationships, marriage, and betrayal, brought up to date in this bold new staging which captures the breathtaking pace of the story, placing no limits on opulence, decadence and, above all, passion.

When her brother’s affair is discovered, Anna Karenina crosses the country by train to help save his marriage. But on her arrival at the station, a charged encounter with a dazzling young cavalry officer sends Anna on a course of action that could destroy her own marriage and tear her life apart.

Meanwhile, rejected by his beloved Kitty, Kostya Levin vows never to marry. As Anna opens herself up to love, Kostya tries in vain to shut himself off from it. Kindred spirits, Anna and Kostya are torn between desire and duty, sexual and parental love, self and society – and they won’t live a lie.

In a world of fakery, public shaming and patriarchal oppression, they are compelled to live truly – or not at all.

Director Polina Kalinina says: “For us, Anna’s story is about passion, truth, and rebellion. She joins countless other women in history who are punished for not adhering to the rigid roles created for them by the patriarchy. Lesley and I love her because of how hard she tries to live truthfully. Her resistance is ruthlessly punished – in this way Anna prefigures the many modern women who are publicly shamed for perceived moral infractions. And we as a society just love to punish women for being imperfect, while their male counterparts go un-critiqued.”

Photographs by Robbie McFadzean