Tag Archives: Mikhail Lermontov

A Hero of our Time


Stone Nest

A Hero of

A Hero of our Time

Stone Nest

Reviewed – 18th September 2020



“the performances burn with an energy that transfixes throughout”


Since March, and I’m far from alone here, the only theatre I have been able to witness has been either beamed through a computer screen or, more recently, outside under our unpredictable skies. Consequently, one is bound to carry a heightened sense of expectation when returning to an indoor space for the first time. Any concerns, though, that these expectations are not reached are swiftly thwarted by HUNCHTheatre’s impassioned and inspired adaptation of Mikhail Lermontov’s “A Hero of Our Time”.

Having enjoyed critical success in Edinburgh and at the Arcola Theatre in 2018, it now comes to the Stone Nest: a former, nineteenth century Welsh Chapel tucked away on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue. From the eighties it was the home of the infamous Limelight Club until it became just a pub; but for the last decade has stood empty. Until now. With its Norman style gallery and grand dome, it seems an appropriate space for presenting the moody, melancholic thoughts of Mikhail Lermontov. “A Hero of Our Time”, Lermontov’s final prose work, focuses on the anti-hero Pechorin whose tragic demise foreshadowed the author’s own death during a duel.

The romanticism of the setting, however, is outweighed by the somewhat poor acoustics of the church. However, Oliver Bennett and Vladimir Shcherban’s adaptation is inventive enough to be able to dispense with the backdrop and rely purely on their dramatic achievement. The writing is skilfully modern, and the performances burn with an energy that transfixes throughout. Bennett, as Pechorin, embodies the nihilistic intensity mixed with the melancholic sensitivity of the Romantic hero. The rich tones of his voice frame the aphorisms that are sometimes unbearably cruel, but impeccably aimed to wound his intended target. It is often difficult to feel a real sympathy towards this kind of self-centred protagonist, but Bennett reels us in with his winning charisma.

James Marlowe as Grushnitsky, his long-suffering friend, gives as good as he gets as the two face each other off over the young Princess Mary. Initially the underdog, Marlowe’s stage presence gives a real stealth to the character that ultimately threatens to usurp the hero’s tragic status. The two actors create an electrifying bond; and caught in its crossfire is Florence Roberts who convincingly plays the two pivotal women: Princess Mary, the pawn in the game (but don’t underestimate the power of the pawn!) and Pechorin’s ailing ex-lover, Vera.

The lines are blurred between comedy and tragedy, between the past and the present; but it is clear that we are witnessing a vital piece of theatre here. It exposes the conflicting emotions of the characters as being universal. It is not always comfortable – like biting into a lemon. The bitterness is as immediate as the sharp language of the text. Marred only by a few moments of extraneous physicality, the offbeat and avant-garde permeates the production.

The irony, the insight, the fatalism, the humour, the violence and the love; all embedded in Lermontov’s original, have not been lost over time. This is a show that resonates today just as compellingly; and these actors are the heroes of our time.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans


A Hero of our Time

Stone Nest until 19th September



Click here to read our November 2018 review from the Arcola Theatre


Last ten shows reviewed by Jonathan:
The Importance Of Being Earnest | ★★★½ | The Turbine Theatre | February 2020
Closed Lands | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
Max Raabe & Palast Orchester | ★★★★★ | Cadogan Hall | March 2020
The Kite Runner | ★★★★ | Richmond Theatre | March 2020
The Last Five Years | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | March 2020
A Separate Peace | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020
The Understudy | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020
Godspell Online in Concert | ★★★★★ | Online | August 2020
Henry V | ★★★★ | The Maltings | August 2020
St Anne Comes Home | ★★★★ | St Paul’s Church Covent Garden | August 2020


Click here to see our most recent reviews


A Hero of our Time

Arcola Theatre

A Hero of our Time

A Hero of our Time

Arcola Theatre

Reviewed – 21st November 2018


“a work of theatre that is contemporary in its face and historical in its head”


The country is Russia, the place, Hackney; the century, irrelevant. Lermontov gets off the train at Dalston Junction. Pushkin orders coffee at Costa, the ladies of the Tsar’s court try on press-on nails. And at the Arcola Theatre, the off-duty officer, Pechorin, kills time by messing with the romantic affairs of his friend, Grushnitsky.

Pechorin (Oliver Bennett) is not a bad man, per se, but he is driven by a love of poetry – what he calls poetry – and a resentment for those simple people who speak in a straightforward manner, who want basic things, like love and respect – like Grushnitsky (James Marlowe), a cadet who has fallen for the beautiful and charming Princess Mary (Scarlett Saunders). “Tell her her eyes are like velvet”, Pechorin suggests, and, “If you don’t ask her to dance the mazurka, someone else might first.”

HUNCHtheatre’s A Hero of Our Time, adapted from one part of the 19th century novel of the same name, by Mikhail Lermontov, looks at the distance between substance and style, function and form, content and poetry. Pechorin is a gifted orator – a skilled bullshitter, I mean – who assumes that his sense of language makes him more honourable than the people around him. And, indeed, he can talk his way into society circles, win the heart of the Princess with minimal effort. But when the pretense is dropped and Pechorin loses his words, he is as base and simple as anyone else: “If you fucking hit me, I’ll fucking hit you!” he swears, at his ex-lover.

Oliver Bennett is charming and personable, and, moreover, believable, not only in the dramatic sense, but in the rhetorical way also, because it’s easy to imagine that he is Pechorin, and it’s easy to think that he is right. Marlowe’s Grushnitsky is immediately sympathetic in his vulnerability. Saunders, as Princess Mary and also Pechorin’ ex-lover, Vera, is both beguiling and jaded.

Bennett (who also worked on the adaptation) and co-adaptor Vladimir Shcherban have created a work of theatre that is contemporary in its face and historical in its head. Their blending of linguistic styles, dramatic styles, their chic set and inventive staging remind us that in art, the stuff below has a tendency of coming up, often making a mess of the surfaces it breaks through. What a beautiful mess indeed is A Hero of Our Time. It evokes the poetry of a body, a sofa, a lemon, a lit match; the metre of a friendship; and the rhyme of violence.


Reviewed by Louis Train

Photography by Oleg Katchinsky


A Hero of our Time

Arcola Theatre until 15th December


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Heretic Voices | ★★★★ | January 2018
Fine & Dandy | ★★★★★ | February 2018
The Daughter-in-Law | ★★★★ | May 2018
The Parade | ★★★ | May 2018
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives | ★★★★★ | June 2018
The Rape of Lucretia | ★★★★ | July 2018
Elephant Steps | ★★★★ | August 2018
Greek | ★★★★ | August 2018
Forgotten | ★★★ | October 2018
Mrs Dalloway | ★★★★ | October 2018


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