Dostoevsky Trip

Happy (Cnr Tory & Vivian), Wellington

13/02/2008 - 17/02/2008

NZ Fringe Festival 2008

Production Details

From Russia with altered states of consciousness

Dostoevsky Trip is an absurd black comedy – and as black as they come – about a group of junkies in search of the perfect literary high.

When their drug is ingested, they find themselves transformed into the world of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot and mutate into the novel’s characters. After an ecstatic peak, they rediscover their own lost dark souls.

Dostoevsky Trip is a modern theatre classic in Russia and throughout most of Eastern Europe. Fringe 08 marks the first time ever this groundbreaking and deliciously dirty play is produced in New Zealand. 

Dostoevsky Trip
13th – 17th February, 7pm
Happy, cnr Tory and Vivian Streets
Admission – $15/12
Bookings: Door sales only 

Gene Alexander - Director/dealer
Mike Norman - Designer
Robert Tripe - Man 1/Prince Myshkin
Ben Albert - Man 2/Lebedev
Vincent Wong - Man 3/Ganya
Nathan Green - Man 4/Ippolit
Ralph Upton - Man 5/Rogozhin
Erin Mercer - Woman 1/Nastassia Fillipovna
Desiree Cheer - Woman 2/Varya

1hr 30 mins, no interval

Lit trips into idiocy

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 15th Feb 2008

Dostoevsky Trip starts with seven literature addicts waiting for their dealer to turn up with their latest literary fix in the form of a drug. The dealer has an Alexandre Dumas which is mild but suitable for 12 addicts; for seven addicts he has the experimental Dostoevsky pill. They take the pills and suddenly they are transformed into a drug-fuelled scene from Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.

When the drug eventually wears off – it’s a very long trip if you haven’t, like me, read The Idiot – each addict tells without any theatrics a terrifying, humiliating, embarrassing story about themselves just as the Dostoevsky characters played out a truth game about greed, lust and money.

Despite a powerful cast who have created feats of memory and thrown themselves into this difficult play with a magnificent abandon the problem remains that if you haven’t read The Idiot it’s rather like seeing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead without having a clue about Hamlet.

Nevertheless, hats off to the company for what must surely be the first production of a Sorokin play in Wellington if not New Zealand and doing it with such flair in a pokey but entirely appropriate venue.


Steve Evans February 16th, 2008

Having now seen the Sorokin play at Happy, I really wonder if J Coe saw the same play I saw. Laurie Atkinson followed it but complains that she [he, actually - ed] needed to have read The Idiot to have fully enjoyed the "Dostoevsky" bits. While perhaps that is true, it would be just as true to say that it would be more fully enjoyable if one had read all the many authors mentioned before the dealer turned up, chief among them - and first - Celine. Well, I've read Celine ("in two hundred years I'll be helping the kids through high school", or as Sorokin puts it "on every street corner"), but I didn't need to have read him to have gotten the point, and the Dostoevsky sections were enjoyable whether I'd read The Idiot - and more, actually - or not. The play is extremely well-written and overcomes its "literary" conceits, and if it's for an intelligent audience, that does not necessarily mean a literary one. It is very well-constructed too. There is a lot in it, and if I could go again I would. The acting on Sat 16 February was not perfect but it was nonetheless very good and the intimate venue was really suited by the material. Sez me: full marks. Thanks you lot.

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Variation lacking

Review by Jackson Coe 14th Feb 2008

Connecting literature and hallucinogenic drugs is a clever and witty way to explore the writing of Fyodor Dostoevsky, and while I’m convinced that the director had an effective vision in mind for Dostoevsky Trip, I fear that sometime during the rehearsal process his vision must have absconded.  The final product has loads of material which doesn’t quite manage to achieve its potential.

The play begins with a delicate air of absurdism which I find rather intriguing.  Following some groovy pre-show ambience music, seven shifty individuals lurk their way onto the stage, dressed in trench coats and, as is anybody dressed in a trench coat, clearly up to something.  It turns out they’re looking for a fix, but the quirky spin on the play is that these guys are addicted to authors.  Their dealer soon arrives, who hooks his clients up with some Dostoevsky (in pill form), which is promptly swallowed.  From there, the show morphs into one truly outrageous ride.

Happy is an incredibly difficult venue to stage a show in.  The intimate bar seems to lend itself well to theatre, but once inside it can become overwhelming.  Designer Mike Norman has made excellent use of this tricky space, locating the action in the centre of the floor and using Happy’s infamous pillars to frame the action.  The set is draped in white sheets, evoking for me a ghostly, ethereal atmosphere of dead Russian writers haunting the minds of our young literature-trippers.

Credit should also be given to David Freak, of Freak fashions, whose abstract suits blend well with the surreal world experienced while tripping on Dostoevsky.

Where the play really falls short, however, is in its lack of variation.  The characters’ descent into a drug-induced frenzy becomes, literally, a pile of people on the floor.  I would have been fascinated to watch the group branch off from one another and buzz out in various ways, shapes and forms throughout the room.  Instead, we are forced to endure the same repetitive level of voice and physicality for what seems like an excessive amount of time. 

Likewise, while the monologues towards the end of the play are fascinating examples of sexual perversion and childhood trauma, the issue is a lack of variation in their delivery.  Theatre is not just words being spoken.  Literature is just words.  Theatre is motion, colour and liveliness, and in this instance these components were lacking.

In short, the show should be calmer when it is crazy, and crazier when it is calm, in order for it to really pack a punch. 


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