London. by Anton Chekhov adapted by Brendan Murray.
Brockley Jack Studio 410 Brockley Road SE4 2DH To 2 August 2014.
Tue–Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 0333 666 3366.
Review: William Russell 16 July.
Production less ripe for cherry than for nit-picking.
Brendan Murray’s version of Chekhov’s greatest play is a workmanlike affair which is sabotaged by a perverse staging from director Matthew Parker and some ghastly incidental music composed by Maria Haik Escudero.
One knows things are not going to go well right from the start as the cast assembly chanting “Ha, ha” interminably. What is has to do with anything that follows is anybody’s guess.
The playing is variable, and Julia Faulkner can do nothing with Ranyevskaya. That impossible woman has to be utterly enchanting because otherwise she is feckless, foolish and bent on self-destruction as she resists all attempts to save herself and her childish brother Gaev from ruin. One has to love her regardless. Ms Faulkner is just annoying.
But Graham Christopher as Gaev makes a splendidly foolish child man, and there is good work from John Sears as Firs, the ancient family retainer forever lamenting the good old days of serfdom.
This is a world in crisis. The landed gentry face an uncertain future, which seems to lie with Lopakhin, the self-made businessman and son of a man who was one of the family’s serfs, He promises to save the day for her. Henry Everett as Lopakhin clearly comes from another world, but he is somehow too volatile, too much the wide-boy, and his never-to-be-consummated courtship of Ranyevskaya’s embittered daughter Varya, which ought to be sad beyond bearing, simply does not move one as it should.
There is too much horseplay – Yepikhodov, the estate clerk, is clumsy and cack-handed but here he is positively imbecilic, while Yasha, the footman on the make, is much too insultingly familiar to his employers to be credible.
This is quite simply a bad production with decent actors struggling to make sense of what they are required to do, which includes playing various instruments – whether badly or well it is hard to tell given what they are asked to play. When the axe falls on the orchard at the end it should be a moment to weep. It comes as a blessed relief.
Gaev: Graham Christopher.
Ranyevskaya: Julia Faulkner.
Anya: Emma Kemp.
Varya: Helen Keeley.
Lopakhin: Henry Everett.
Pishchik: Bryan Pilkington.
Charlotta: Cathy Conneff.
Yasha: Robert Sladden.
Dunyasha: Victoria Sye.
Yepikhodov: Nic McQuillan.
Trofimov: William Donaldson.
Firs: John Sears.
Servant/Jewish Band/Stationmaster: John Fricker.
Servant/Tramp/Post Office Clerk: Fergus Leathen.
Servant/Jewish Band: Alice Coles.
Director/Choreographer: Matthew Parker.
Designer: Rachael Ryan.
Lighting: Tom Kitney.
Sound: Will Tonna.
Composer/Musical Director: Maria Haik Escudero.
Costume: Jane Rankine.