by Anton Chekhov in a version by Andrew Upton.

Olivier Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 13 August 2011.
7.30pm 27-29 June, 8, 9, 14-16, 18, 19, 25-28 July, 2-6, 11-13 Aug.
2pm 9, 16, 19, 27 July, 3, 6, 13 Aug.
2.30pm 10, 17 July. (NB many performances currently sold out.
Audio-described 9 July 2pm (+ Touch Tour 12.30pm), 15 July, 16 July2pm (+ Touch Tour 12.30pm).
Captioned 21 June 21, 10 July 10.
Runs: 2hr 50min One interval.

TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 18 June.

Fine-tuned Chekhov.
In January Moscow’s Sovremennik Theatre brought London a memorably authentic Russian Cherry Orchard, all melodramatic flourishes and some surprisingly fresh insights about the system that was about to be swept away.

Confirmation of how different British productions are is clear in Howard Davies’ fine Olivier Theatre revival. Everything about it speaks of clarity and modernity, especially in Andrew Upton’s new version, which has not found favour in all quarters. I found it perfectly in keeping with Chekhov’s mixture of pure farce, desperate tragedy and rough-necked ambition.

No time here for subtleties from Conleth Hill’s aspirational entrepreneurial Lopakhin, tearing into Zoë Wanamaker’s scatty Ranyevskaya and James Laurenson’s adorably affable, totally useless Gaev. Hill’s exasperation at their refusal to grasp the solution that lies before them for their debt-ridden estate is recognisably contemporary. A man in a hurry, with an eye to market potential, his triumph over Ranyevskaya is brutally expressed.

It’s just one moment in a production typically grounded by Davies in detail combining `period’ and fresh thinking. Bunny Christie’s wooden dacha has the feel of a house long lived-in but symbolically, falling apart; Claudie Blakley’s hard-working, neglected Varya talks to herself without anyone listening. And the party that launches the second act exudes a wonderfully ribald, drunken excess.

I’ve never seen a recent production too that so clearly underlined the play’s class distinctions. In a society on the brink of violent eruption, every scene is a reminder that Ranyevskaya and Gaev’s patrician ways are catastrophically inadequate in the new world rushing-in, one that will belong to nouveau idealists as well as nouveau riche.

Yet the past lingers like an old shroud, bedevilling Lopakhin from proposing to Varya, catching Mark Bonnar’s firey Scottish-socialist eternal student, Trofimov by the throat even as he denounces Ranyevskaya for her indecision.

Chekhov never lets us forget that in change there are losers as well as winners. And in Davies’ production, it is `other parts’ I’ll remember: understudy Craige Els supplying a whelping, original Pischik, Gerald Kyd as a cold, indolent Yasha and Charity Wakefield very impressive as Anya, a Shavian `new woman’ in the making.

Lopakhin: Conleth Hill.
Dunyasha: Emily Taaffe.
Yepihodov: Pip Carter.
Anya: Charity Wakefield.
Ranyevskaya: Zoë Wanamaker.
Varya: Claudie Blakley.
Gaev: James Laurenson.
Charlotta: Sarah Woodward.
Simyonov-Pischik: Tim McMullan.
Yasha: Gerald Kyd.
Firs: Kenneth Cranham.
Petya Trofimov: Mark Bonnar.
A Passer-By: Craige Els.
Station Master: Paul Dodds.
Ensemble: Mark Fleischmann, Colin Haigh, Jessica Regan, Tim Samuels, Stephanie Thomas, Joseph Thomson, Ellie Turner.

Director: Howard Davies.
Designer: Bunny Christie.
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Sound: Paul Groothuis.
Music: Dominic Muldowney.
Music Associate: Dan Jackson
Choreographer: Lynne Page.
Company Voice work: Jeannette Nelson.
Magic consultant: Simon Evans.
Fight director: Terry King.

This production opened at the Olivier Theatre London in 17 May 2011. it is part of the Travelex £12 programme

2011-06-23 16:08:36

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