SONS WITHOUT FATHERS
by Anton Chekhov new version by Helena Kaut-Howson.
Belgrade Theatre (B2) Belgrade Theatre (B2) Belgrade Square CV1 1GS To 4 May.
Tue-Sat 8pm Mat Sat & 1 May 2.45pm.
Audio-described 4 May 2.45pm.
Captioned 3 May.
Post-show Discussion 25 April.
TICKETS: 024 7655 3055.
then Arcola Theatre 24 Ashwin Street E8 9DL 8 May-15 June 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Runs 3hr One interval.
Review: Jan Pick 16 April.
A Russian Dystopia.
Chaotic, shambolic, sprawling, occasionally tedious, spasmodically brilliant, this version of Chekhov’s early play Platonov, adapted and directed by Helena Kaut-Howson, addresses the disillusion and lack of purpose in a generation betrayed by their society and lacking focus.
It is a vast, sprawling piece and Kaut-Howson is fortunate her cast throw everything they have – which is considerable – at it, injecting a powerful and intense dramatic purpose which holds the audience in thrall for much of the evening.
That said, this version could still do with some pruning – at least half an hour could be usefully lost, tightening the structure and drive, while the central theme – sons missing fathers – is not really fully integrated into the plot; references are few and seem irrelevant in the context of what happens on stage.
Adrift in a dystopian world that lacks elders, Jack Laskey is suitably and attractively louche as Mikhail Platonov, the schoolmaster with soured dreams, intrinsically good, yet lacking in moral fibre and self-control; irresistible to women yet strangely innocent of deliberate seduction.
Sapped by disillusion, he destroys the only real thing in his life, his relationship with his wife, Sasha, sensitively played by Amy McAllister as the only truly likeable, realistic person in the play. Simon Scarfield and Tom Canton work well as Mikhail’s friends and drinking partners, making the most of their dramatic opportunities, and Susie Trayling makes an excellent Anna Petrovna, desperate to cling to her fast disappearing youth and sexual allure.
Marianne Oldham drifts through her scenes as Sophie, the bored wife, becoming increasingly alive as her affair with Mikhail is rekindled, and Jade Williams convinces as Maria Grekova, the awkward intellectual with difficulty coping with her feelings towards Mikhail – yet another woman with unrealistic expectations of his ability to make her happy.
Lighting and set are excellent and the sound enhances the action, without distracting. Sons Without Fathers is typically Chekhovian in its constant exploration of how life has disappointed or failed to fulfil early promise, and the realities of dredging a living in a Russia that could be of the present or the past.
Mikhail Platanov: Jack Laskey.
Aleksandra: Amy McAllister.
Nikolai Triletzky: Simon Scardifield.
Anna Petrovna: Susie Trayling.
Sergei Voynitsev: Tom Canton.
Sophia Voynitzev: Marianne Oldham.
Isaac Vengerovich: Oliver Hoare.
Maria Grekova: Jade Williams.
Osip: Mark Jax.
Marco: Christopher Old.
Katya: Amy Thompson.
Yakov: Benjamin Lesley.
Vassily: Chris Penk.
Director: Helena Kaut-Howson.
Designer: Iona McLeish.
Lighting: Alex Wardle.
Sound: Paul Bull.
Composer: Boleslaw Rawski.
Assistant director: Jez Pike.