COMEDY CHEKHOV: Four Short Chekhov Plays
New Versions by Alison Sutcliffe
Bridge House Theatre, Warwick
Runs: 2h 15m, one interval till 12 March
Review: Rod Dungate 9 March 2011
Miniature delights, delightfully performed.
As well as his mass of short stories and the great plays of his later years, Chekhov wrote a number of short plays. It’s tempting to look at them to see if we can see the seeds of the later plays; but I’m not sure that this, while interesting, is the best way to approach them. It’s better to just watch them, and see what happens.
Certainly in the airing the Bridge House Theatre Company gives these four. They are delightfully eccentric and crammed full of exuberant observation. Qualities that director Alison Sutcliffe seizes and encourages from her acting team.
In the first two, RELUCTANT HERO and THE BEAR, Chekhov appears to wind up his protagonists and then set them going. And go they do, talking themselves, non-stop, into foolishness while at the same time revealing a touching vulnerability. Richard Derrington gets the whole package off to a flying start in HERO, closely followed by Nicholas Asbury’s Smirnov in BEAR – his ability to leap into heroic, manly poses or to ape French manners are a joy.
THE PROPOSAL is much more of an ensemble. Sarah Whitehouse merges Russian landowner and English County Lady perfectly to create a gorgeously comedic character. Edmund Kingsley and Arthur Kohn deftly dovetail performances to complete this lovely trio.
I’ve waited 25 years to see SWAN SONG. Such a simple idea – an old bit player is left alone in a theatre, and slightly drunk, acts out great Shakespearean speeches. This is great Chekhov in miniature, perfectly blending pathos with comedy. Richard Derrington unerringly soars the heights and plummets the depths beautifully supported by the Stage Manager, Nicholas Asbury. This is lovingly staged, too, in Judy Reaves’ designs, with real footlights that hum when they’re switched on – lighting by Wayne Dowdeswell.
Murashkin: Edmund Kingsley
Tolkachov: Richard Derrington
Popova: Sarah Whitehouse
Luka: Arthur Kohn
Smirnov: Nicholas Asbury
Lomov: Edmund Kingsley
Chubukov: Arthur Kohn
Natalya: Sarah Whitehouse
Svetlovodov: Richard Derrington
Nikita: Nicholas Asbuy
Director: Alison Sutcliffe
Designer: Judy Reaves
Lighting Designer: Wayne Dowdeswell
Sound Design: Andrea J Cox