THE CHERRY ORCHARD till 9 November.

THE CHERRY ORCHARD: Anton Chekhov
Birmingham Rep
Runs: 2.5 hrs, till 6 November, one interval
Review: Rod Dungate, 19 October 2010

Heartfelt production of Chekhov’s masterpiece

The Cherry Orchard, on the page, is a masterpiece of understatement. Taking on board the tensions inherent in the great social changes in Russia around 1900, Chekhov wrote a play in which little appears to happen but movement is seismic, where people chat but great emotional waves sweep through the action, where the play is not about one person’s journey, but about the journey of those who are in the acting space at any one time.

Rachel Kavanaugh’s thoughtful production grew moment by moment into the second half where the company were totally in command of every second. She has given the production time to breathe – but never pause. The final moments with Firs (superbly played throughout by Leonard Fenton) forges the vital tension between sadness and rightness; a moving and satisfying conclusion.

Colin Richmond’s designs are economic but atmospheric and within the designs Ranevskaya and Gayev appear to be part of the house itself – a thrilling touch. The elegant speed with which his sets change location is remarkable.

Josie Lawrence is a commanding Ranevskaya; though striking, there is no element of ‘greatness’ about her. We feel her muddle, her confusion, her pain – her human-ness. She may be unpredictable, but Lawrence holds her back from being feckless. Her final moments of Act III are superb.

John Ramm is particularly effective too. He creates a full-bodied, no-holds-barred, Lopakhin – this entrepreneur is outwardly as coarse as he describes himself. Yet Ramm takes on board the sensitivity which Trofimov mentions, cleverly hiding it behind Lopakhin’s clowning and a self-deprecating laugh.

This is a very strong company indeed; Timothy Kightley is particularly strong in the gem, Pishchik, Anthony Flanagan quietly moving as the student, Trofimov.

I sense this production is going to grow and grow.

Lopakhin: John Ramm
Dunyasha: Joanna Horton
Yepikhodov: Harry Peacock
Firs: Leonard Fenton
Liubov Andreevna Ranevskaya: Josie Lawrence
Anya: Amy McAllister
Varya: Emma Pallant
Leonid Andreevich Gaev: Patrick Drury
Charlotta: Joyce Henderson
Simeonov-Pishchik: Timothy Kightley
Yasha: Philip Correia
Pyotr Sergeevich Trofimov: Anthony Flanagan
Passer-by/Station Master: Ryan Winson

Director: Rachel Kavanaugh
Designer: Colin Richmond
Lighting Designer: Tim Mitchell
Composer: Catherine Jayes
Sound Designer: Dan Hoole
Movement: Nick Winston
Casting Dirctor: Lucy Jenkins
Magic: Tom Silburn

2010-10-20 09:06:03

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