THE CHERRY ORCHARD
By Anton Chekhov
in an English version by Trevor Griffiths
from a translation by Helen Rappaport.
3 Stars ***
The Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London E8 3DL to 25 March 2017.
Mon – Sat 7.30pm. Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: William Russell 21 February
Distinctly over ripe cherries
Writing about the play he has crafted from Chekhov Trevor Griffiths said he felt its meanings had been seriously betrayed here by directors clinging wilfully to the idea the play was an elegy for the decline of civilisation. He did not read the history of the period – the play dates from 1904 – in that way, and neither did he read the play that way. He wanted to create the space for a new idea of it.
This presumably is why director Mehmet Ergen has decided to stage it in modern dress. The result is really rather awkward. The family is on the brink of destruction, society is heading for change – although the revolution Chekhov clearly felt was coming was not the one that did turn up. But if the change of costume – the set is non specific, some chairs, a bookcase and a barren tree looming over the acting space – was meant to make it all more relevant to today, also a time of great change, it does not work.
As they worry about the outcome of the auction of the estate you sit there thinking where are the mobile phones? Why are they not looking it up on line? And when they depart at the end for Paris by train you think nobody would do that now. They would fly. It would be cheaper for a start.
Nor is there any reason why today anybody would wear a bunch of keys at their belt like the stay at home daughter Varya, other than that she can throw them at the feet of the man who refuses to ask her to marry him after he has bought the estate. All that may sound trivial but it is things like that which undermine the suspension of disbelief any theatrical performance demands and never before with this play has that happened. The goings on are happening in some peculiar limbo.
There is also some very strange behavious by the servants, whose familiarity with their masters really passes even today’ democratic bounds. At moments it looks and sounds a bit like Carry on Down the Dnieper especially when the housemaid and the valet are getting down to enjoying life.
The cast is sound and the production’s failings are not their fault. Sian Thomas is a suitably flighty and silly Madame Ranevsky in a series of no underwear skin tight gowns, Jack Klaff is amusingly foolish as her idle brother Gayev and Jude Akuwudike is a decent Lopakhin, the serf made good.
Somewhere along the way Chekhov has disappeared. Maybe it is wrong to view the play as an elegy for a vanishing way of life, but whatever view Griffiths had is far from clear from Ergen’s production. It could just be a case of one cherry orchard too many, but this is a peculiar and far from satisfactory reading of the play. Chekhov, however, will survive.
Lopakhin: Jude Akuwudike.
Anya: Pernille Broch.
Pischick: Jim Bywater.
Charlotte: Baris Celiloglu.
Trofimov: Abhin Galeya.
Firs: Robin Hooper.
Gayef: Jack Klaff.
Epikhodov: Simon Scardifield.
Mme Ranevsky: Sian Thomas.
Stranger: Nick Voyla.
Yasha: Ryan Wichert.
Varya: Jade Williams.
Dunyasha: Lily Wood.
Director: Mehmet Ergen.
Design: Iona McLeish.
Lighting Design: David Howe.
Sound Design: Neil McKeown.
Choreography: Depi Gorgogianni.
Costume Supervisor: Emma Marguerite Lynch.