Q&A: The Double

TheatreRUN's Adam Paolozza on Dostoevsky, doppelgangers and directing The Double

Presented by Tarragon Theatre
A TheatreRUN Production
Adapted from the novella by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Created & performed by Adam Paolozza, Arif Mirabdolbaghi & Viktor Lukawski
Directed by Adam Paolozza
Music by Arif Mirabdolbaghi

Viktor Lukawski & Adam Paolozza in The Double. Photo by Lacey Creighton.

The days are getting colder and TheatreRUN artistic director Adam Paolozza is transforming the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space into a shadowy portrait of 19th century Russia, the backdrop of his latest production The Double. Inspired by Dostoevsky’s novella about a paranoid government clerk who goes mad when he meets a stranger who looks just like him, the show blends the author's prose with physical theatre and live music, featuring Paolozza in the role of Golyadkin alongside Viktor Lukawski and bass player Arif Mirabdolbaghi.

Here, Paolozza gives us glimpse into the eerie world of The Double.

Theatromania: Tell us about TheatreRUN’s production of The Double. What inspired you to create a physical piece of theatre based on Dostoevsky’s novella?

AP: A lot of things came together to make this piece happen. It all started as a chance for Arif Mirabdolbaghi and I to collaborate together. Arif is an old friend and a bass player in the Canadian prog metal band Protest The Hero. We wanted to work on something that mixed music and movement. I knew Arif was a big Dostoevsky fan and one day we were at his house having a beer and he pulled The Double off his shelf. We both had beards at the time and we both look alike. Also, at the time he was playing double bass quite a lot and wanted to use that in the showhe thought the smooth, slinky tones of the bass would serve the story well. So, doubles, beards, double basses, the possibilities seemed to multiply themselves... Madness, as a theme, has always interested me and I'm very into Russian literature. Dostoevsky in particular is quite dramatiche writes great dialogue and has a keen eye for situation. We were also attracted to the moody, atmospheric quality of the book. There are great images of foggy, rain swept streets, claustrophobic apartments, oppressive officesit was a rich trove of images that we could recreate for the stage with light and movement. And the real clincher for me as an actor in the piece was that I really identified with the main character, Golyadkin. I thought to myself, “I really see this man and I can play him and do justice to his predicament."

Theatromania: Has the production changed much since it was staged in 2012?

AP: It was originally supposed to be just Arif and I, two performers and one bass. We even created a 45-minute version for the Buzz festival at Passe Muraille. But this configuration quickly became limiting and it didn't allow us to do justice to the grotesque society that surrounds Golyadkin. So I asked the amazingly versatile Viktor Lukawski to join us and he plays the rest of the St. Petersburg mileu, all the Joneses that Golyadkin tries to keep up with. This three-person version premiered at Factory in 2012. Since then we've worked on the piece for three weeks last Spring at Tarragon with great help from Richard Rose and his team where we did some fine tuning, rearranging of scenes, etc. We made some big changes to the action to make the transition from novella to stage play more dramatic. It's a leaner, meaner version. You can still expect all the aesthetic and comedic elements that got people excited in the first place but the overall experience is deeper and richer than ever. And being at Tarragon we've had the chance to increase the production value of the design and I think the show looks better than ever.

Theatromania: What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced during rehearsals?

AP: Well, as I'm the director and performing in the piece I need to use a stand in. This is a very important role in devised theatre. It requires a collaborator with great skill, versatility and humbleness because they have to perform as I would perform knowing that eventually I will take over. Norah Sadava is my stand in and she's one of the best collaborators I've ever had. She's so good that I would never use her as a stand in anymore because I just want to be on stage with her! But a stand in is a great opportunity for younger actors to work with my company and learn about our creative process. For this last stretch of rehearsals I've asked Lisa Marie DiLiberto, artistic director of Fixt Point Theatre, to be my associate director. She and I discuss the vision and mis-en-scène of the piece and then when I'm inside she defends my vision and adds her own touch to the piece. Lisa is a great director and performer in her own right and one of the only true clowns in town. She understands the dynamics of play and comedy on a practical and philosophical level and she has helped bring this piece to the next level.

Theatromania: Can you describe the role of bass-player Arif Mirabdolbaghi in this piece?

AP: Arif is the fulcrum for the whole piece. He plays the bass masterfully, underscoring the action and creating a soundscape that truly becomes another character (not to mention that the bass itself, in some scenes, becomes the main love interest in the piece). He is also the narrator and I'm particularly happy to see him blossom as an actor. I've always known Arif to be incredibly charming and I wanted to capture this, along with his own devilish sense of humour, in the piece. I wanted to have someone who was not a professionally trained actor to compliment what Viktor and I are doing. And Arif knows Dostoevsky so well that he can extemporize in the Dostoevskyian idiom with aplomb!

Theatromania: What do you hope audiences take away from this performance?

AP: This is always a difficult question and I always hesitate to answer it. In the simplest sense I want them to be entertained, moved etc. I also hope the piece sheds light on a painful aspect of the human conditionmadnessand allows us to laugh at it, uncomfortable as this can be. We also want the audience to be swept away by the simplest theatrical wizardryshadows, light and fog.

Theatromania: What’s next for you?

AP: Immediately after this I'm throwing a party at the Theatre Centre Pop-Up on November 29th. I'm changing the name of my theatre company and this is a launch party for the new company identity. You're all invited for champagne and the grand unveiling of the new name at midnight! Then in December I'm off to Italy for two months as part of an OAC International residency. I'm going to study outdoor popular theatre in my Father's home village, study the Carnival performances in the South and work with a contemporary Italian theatre company in Florence.

The Double runs until November 24 at Tarragon Theatre. Visit tarragontheatre.com for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Tue, 2013-10-15 - Sun, 2013-11-24


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