THE CHERRY ORCHARD
by Anton Chekov In a version by tgStan.
O’Reilly Theatre Belvedere College Dublin 1 To 10 October 2015.
Runs: 2hr 20min No interval.
Review: Anne O’Leary 8 October.
Wild cherries to be picked in this Orchard.
Whenever Anton Chekov’s great cornerstone of European drama is performed in Dublin, I feel it bears the shadow of Tom Murphy’s memorable 2004 version to celebrate the Abbey Theatre’s centenary. Luckily the ambiguous classic lends itself to innovation and refining and Belgian company tgStan offer Dublin an alternative, playful version, typical of the manner by which they forged their reputation over fifteen years.
Remaining true to the central story, and at least some of the rambling dialogue, it is the set and costume design that is given a postmodern treatment and at times the performance feels like an early rehearsal or even a reading of the play.
The minimalist set is interesting. It consists of a jumble of Ikea-type furniture in addition to a series of enormous opaque screens. Lit from behind they form (very effectively) the walls of the house. However the screens are moved around several times, deliberately noisily and quite unnecessarily, sometimes drowning-out the dialogue taking place in the foreground. There is no designated stage area. Actors and props wait to enter at the sides or rear, or among the audience in a few instances. This emphasis on boundaries extends to the fourth wall, and the audience are addressed regularly.
Although sometimes confusing, somehow it all works to give a very entertaining performance, conveying clearly the play’s sub-text of the clash between the values of Old Russia and Modernity/Westernisation. The symbolic significance of the Orchard is not foregrounded (tiny scraps of paper are thrown over a fan to simulate cherry blossoms) so forward momentum is difficult, but it is the party scene which achieves this and also the necessary dramatic tension towards the end.
The party, held offstage in the original script, is visible throughout. Excellently choreographed dancing performed to Funk rhythms makes for a mesmerizing mix and when Lopakhin returns from the auction and calls for music to celebrate the outcome, it’s a powerful blast of dance music which emanates. And introducing the Ibiza concept of “get ready to dance like there’s no tomorrow” is particularly clever and appropriate here.
Created by: Evelien Bosmans, EvgeniaBrendes, Robby Cleiren, Jolente De Keersmaeker, Lukas De Wolf, Bert Haelvoet, MinkeKruyver, Scarlet Tummers, Rosa Van Leuwen, Stijn Van Opstal, Frank Vercruyssen.
Designer: in collaboration with Damiaan De Schrijver.
Lighting: Thomas Walgrave.
Costume: An d’Huys.