by Anton Chekhov translated by Stephen Mulrine.

Tobacco Factory Raleigh Road BS3 1TF To 5 May.
Mon-Wed; Sat 7.30pm Thu, Fri 8pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 0117 902 0344.

then Rose Theatre 24-26 High Street Kingston KT1 1HL 15-19 May 2012.
7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 08444 821556.

Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 February.

Highly comic yet deeply tragic.
With one possible exception nobody in Anton Chekhov’s final play is ill-intentioned. Why, then, are their lives so miserable?

Andrew Hilton’s clear, deeply-explored production ensures the audience doesn’t have a miserable time. The tragedy hits home, yet Hilton shows tragic moments often collapsing into laughter. In reply to young Anya’s expression of love, radical student Trofimov delivers a hymn to the future which leaves her unhappy; then goes off and falls downstairs.

Though events flow towards the cherry orchard’s sale, this doesn’t appear a play of steadily developing plot. Segments bring characters together then are succeeded by separate segments. Within each, comedy and tragedy intertwine because nobody listens to anybody else.

When wayward but lucky neighbour Simeonov-Pishchik (Roland Oliver, intense in his irrelevance), ever after a loan, says he’s heard Nietzsche says it’s all right to forge banknotes, he’s clearly picked up the only bit of the philosopher he wants to hear. Others too pick up what they want. Like Christopher Bianchi’s Gaev, played with unusual sensitivity to his arrogant side, nodding sympathetically to his sister Ranevskaya, ignoring the former serf Lopakhin.

This spare, in-the-round setting makes clear these people know their failings. One by one they speak them out. But they seem unable to do anything about them. Julia Hills’ Ranevskaya, in an elegant series of dresses that suggest the sympathy that’s a part of her and how her money has slipped away, won’t listen to Lopakhin’s plans. So when the orchard’s sale is upon her, she’s reduced to rage riding on despair.

For Varya, anger grows from frustrated love. Even Simon Armstrong’s businessman Lopakhin, always happy because he does things, is reduced to embarrassment when faced with his love for her. Their last chance together sees him shaking his arms – Lopakhin’s nervous gesture – then fizzles out in talk of the weather. The scene’s played with beautiful detail by Dorothea Myer-Bennett and Armstrong.

If there’s a glimmer of hope it’s in young Anya and Trofimov leaving together in a production where every character is played with unaffected clarity and detail. This is a peach of a Cherry Orchard

Lopakhin: Simon Armstrong.
Dunyasha: Gemma Lawrence.
Yepikhodov: Paul Brendan.
Anya: Eleanor Yates.
Mme Ranevskaya: Julia Hills.
Varya: Dorothea Myer-Bennett.
Gaev: Christopher Bianchi.
Charlotta: Saskia Portway.
Simeonov-Pishchik: Roland Oliver.
Yasha: Piers Wehner.
Firs: Paul Nicholson.
Trofimov: Benjamin O’Mahony.
Passer-By/Stationmaster: Paul Currier.
Post Office Clerk: Andy Guard.
Servant: Rachel Isaacs.

Director: Andrew Hilton.
Designer/Costume: Harriet de Winton.
Lighting: Matthew Graham.
Sound/Composer: Elizabeth Purnell.
Choreographer: Jonathan Howell.
Magic instructor: Peter Clifford.
Assistant director: Harriet Laye.

2012-04-05 11:13:47

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