How to bring a novella from one of the most famous novelists ever onto the stage? It’s a question that adapter of The Death of Ivan Ilyich and I have been grappling with. The novel is written in the third person so who’s voice should the story be put into? What will yield the most potent piece of theatre?
In our initial conversations about the approach a couple of thoughts have started to come through really clearly. Firstly, that we need to acknowledge our audience. A one man show is a tricky form and the ‘liveness’ of our event needs to be central to our conception of the story on stage. Secondly, we need to be willing to let go of any of Tolstoy which doesn’t serve our purpose. No-one (least of all Tolstoy) are going to be grateful for loyalty to the source.
Any adaptation requires a firm hand, but in this tricksy little novella, Stephen has a fascinating challenge on his hands.