Tag Archives: Laurence Boswell



Marylebone Theatre

THE DREAM OF A RIDICULOUS MAN at the Marylebone Theatre


“a stark parable of hope for post-Covid Britain”

In these post-Covid years, one might very well question the merits of paying to see the monologic disillusionment of a lonely man played out on stage. Indeed, one would be forgiven for mistaking Laurence Boswell’s ‘The Dream of a Ridiculous Man’ (newly adapted for the Marylebone Theatre from Dostoyevsky’s novella of the same name) for advertising itself as doing just that.

Boswell puts his idea for the inception of the play down to long walks towards the end of the Covid pandemic. It was then that he began to contemplate Dostoyevsky’s story as having vital resonances to the peculiar cultural context of the post-pandemic years. This spurred his decision to transplant the play and its one-man protagonist, played by Greg Hicks, to the Hackney of the modern day.

The play begins with Hicks soliloquising upon a tale of life as a ‘meaningless accident in an indifferent and seemingly meaningless universe’. The account of this tale eventually brings him to the point of suicide, before he collapses into a sleep. As he sleeps he begins to dream of a surreal utopian world which comes to redefine his perspective on the realities of his own life. The volte face which plays out in Hicks’ mind brilliantly manifests itself in the intimate surroundings of the stage. Much of this effect hinges upon the dynamism and vitality of his performance, while its structure is underpinned by Boswell’s careful rendering of Dostoyevsky’s prose for performance.

Perhaps the only notable area where Boswell’s adaptation falls short lies in the, admittedly difficult, task of capturing the original text’s peculiarly risible quality. Translated literally, Dostoyevsky’s Russian title, Сон смешного человека, reads as ‘A Funny Man’s Dream’. Mikhail Bakhtin famously posited the story’s place as a model late 19th century example of Menippean satire, citing the ultimately playful undertone of the protagonist’s revelatory dream and the action which follows. Hicks’ performance lends itself more towards serious philosophical contemplation than the more surreal or farcical interpretations of the original, though this is not altogether to the diminution of the play’s dramatic effect.



Indeed, Hicks remains, necessarily, the sustaining force of the play, and moments of exposition or extended speech are deployed economically. Moreover, there is much to be said for the production’s remarkably deft means of expressing the philosophical pertinences of Dostoyevsky’s novella wordlessly. From the complementarily layered approach to costume (Caroline Stevens) and lighting (Ben Ormerod) to demarcate between the protagonist’s states of consciousness, to Gary Sefton’s similarly effective direction of Hicks’ movement and positioning on the stage. Each of these components works seamlessly to shift the production’s mise en scène and mood without slipping into ungainly segues in scene or prop changes.

The overarching potentiality of the production lies in the very fact that it tends ultimately not towards nihilism but hope. Indeed, the play presents an inversion of ‘nihilistic’ narratives reminiscent of its opening scene, such as Dürrenmatt’s ‘The Physicist’, or Büchner’s ‘Woyzeck’. Instead its plot centres upon a spiritual ascent from, rather than a psychological downward-spiral toward, an individual’s state of meaninglessness.

The combined efforts of Boswell and his creative team result in a set (Loren Elstein) of deft minimalism, capable of facilitating the play’s characteristically Dostoyevskian dialogue between themes of social realism and individual imagination. The result is a play which effectively expresses the principles of its inspiration. In Boswell’s programme notes, he writes of Dostoyevsky’s story as an homage to the human capacity to create stories. The play’s defining impetus lies in visually exploring the limits of this capacity. In doing so, it prompts a fundamental further contemplation, namely ‘that beyond thinking we might see’ different consciousnesses, and come to believe in bolder realities, than our own. Boswell has managed to repurpose Dostoyevsky’s original into a stark parable of hope for post-Covid Britain


THE DREAM OF A RIDICULOUS MAN at the Marylebone Theatre

Reviewed on 28th March 2024

by Flynn Hallman

Photography by Mark Senior




Previously reviewed at this venue:

A SHERLOCK CAROL | ★★★★ | November 2023
THE DRY HOUSE | ★★½ | April 2023



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The Mentor

Theatre Royal Bath Productions and Nica Burns are delighted to announce that Laurence Boswell’s critically acclaimed production of Daniel Kehlmann’s The Mentor will have a West End run at London’s Vaudeville Theatre from 24 June to 2 September.

The Mentor stars Academy Award-winner F. Murray Abraham as Benjamin Rubin, Daniel Weyman as Martin Wegner, Naomi Frederick as Gina Wegner and Jonathan Cullen as Erwin Rudicek.

The Mentor is directed by Olivier Award-winning Laurence Boswell who resides as Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Bath’s Ustinov Studio where the play celebrated a record-breaking run earlier this year, the most successful in the studio’s history. This production, translated by Academy Award-winning Christopher Hampton, marks the first time that bestselling author Daniel Kehlmann’s play has been performed outside of Germany.


In a dilapidated art nouveau villa, somewhere in the German countryside, two massive egos are set on a collision course in this perceptive and compelling comedy about art and artists and the legacy of fame.


F. Murray Abraham won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Salieri in Miloš Forman’s masterpiece Amadeus. His numerous other screen credits include Homeland, Mighty Aphrodite, Scarface, Finding Forrester, Star Trek: Insurrection, The Name of the Rose, The Good Wife, Inside Llewyn Davis and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Theatre credits include It’s Only A Play, Othello, Richard III and Uncle Vanya, for which he was awarded an Obie Award for Best Actor

Daniel Weyman’s previous credits for Theatre Royal Bath include Kafka’s Dick and King Lear. Additional theatre credits include Sideways (St James Theatre), 4000 Days (Park Theatre) and The Crucible (Bristol Old Vic). Television and film credits include Great Expectations, Foyle’s War and Silent Witness

Naomi Frederick’s theatre credits include Hobson’s Choice (Theatre Royal Bath and West End), The Heresy of Love, Much Ado About Nothing and As You Like It (Shakespeare’s Globe) and The Winslow Boy (Old Vic).

Jonathan Cullen starred in the Ustinov Studio’s production of Trouble in Mind. Additional theatre credits include Enemy of the People (Chichester Festival Theatre), Doctor Faustus (Shakespeare’s Globe) and Love the Sinner (National Theatre).

Daniel Kehlmann is a German-language author whose novel Measuring the World, sold three million copies in Germany alone and has been translated into more than 40 languages.
Christopher Hampton previously translated Florian Zeller’s play The Father for the Ustinov Studio, launching its international success. He won an Academy Award for the adaptation of his own play, Dangerous Liaisons
Laurence Boswell is an Olivier Award-winner, Artistic Director of the Ustinov Studio and an Associate Artist of the RSC. His recent productions include A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Theatre Royal’s Main House, and Trouble in the Mind, The Mother, Intimate Apparel and The Spanish Golden Age Season in the Ustinov Studio.

Photography by Simon Annand


24th June – 2 September


404 Strand, London WC2R 0NH



Tickets from £19.50