The Overcoat (aka The Cloak) is one of Gogol's most accessible stories, by the same writer who gave us The Inspector-General. There have been attempts at dramatizing it over the years, and Humphrey Searle even wrote an opera on it; but Morris Panych in Vancouver has created the version to top all others. The story is re-set in the west, in the 1920s, in an architect's office. There is no dialogue, only movement; more like mime than ballet- they claim to have taken their inspiration from silent movie technique. The story of the insignificant little clerk who achieves a fleeting moment of glory when he acquires a gorgeous new overcoat is too well known to need further explanation (alright then, read the book-it'll take you less than an hour). This version pads it out with a few scenes from Diary of a Madman; result- the apotheosis of the little guy. Check out the scene where Akaky (the hero) is going to sleep, and a strangely refined character (apparently the god of sleep) comes to charm him into slumberland. I saw one of the original performances at the Vancouver Playhouse a few years ago, and I knew that Panych & Co. and CBC Orchestra had pulled off something great; but the CBC "Opening Night" production adds a lot; it really makes you feel as if you are in a dream (or nightmare). I have been a big fan of Shostakovich and Gogol for aeons, and to have the two in bed together is almost too much. I suggest that this company should go on to do The Inspector-General and The Nose - they'd be perfect at it. Will they PLEASE release The Overcoat in the cinemas - it would be a thousand times better than what's there now. I assume it will be repeated on TV - we really need another opportunity to digest it all. Congrats to the dancers and the CBC Orchestra - Nazdorovye!!
PS The CBC has now released this on DVD, and you can get it at amazon.ca .
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