by Anton Chekhov.

Noel Coward Theatre St Martin’s Lane WC2N 4AU To 29 January 2011.
Runs: 2hr 45min One interval.

TICKETS: 0844 482 5140.
Review: Carole Woddis 28 January.

Russian Chekhov aware of its roots.
There’s no doubt the visit of the Moscow Sovremennik Theatre has been an `event’. I’ve never heard so many Russian accents nor seen so many young Russian women in various stages of glitter. Ironic then watching The Cherry Orchard, one of the pre-eminent plays about transition, in an audience replicating so much the transition Chekhov foresaw.

Even more ironic, too, that an ex-pat Russian audience should receive Chekhov’s satirical masterpiece as a series of set turns, applauding characters as they deliver what is clearly regarded as a piece of virtuoso speech, in much the same way as an audience would applaud a particular ballet solo or flashing pas de deux.

So we had a nice round of applause for Olga Drozdova’s Sharlotta, the wanderlust governess who knows not who she is or where she’s come from. Sergey Garmash’s barnstorming Lopakhin, the peasant upstart who snatches the estate away from under the noses of Madame Ranevskaya and her indolent brother Gayev was also warmly appreciated as arms aloft, he noisily and exultantly celebrated the moment of change from penurious peasant to omnipotent landowner.

Marina Neelova’s elegant, flighty and nervy Ranevskaya also won plaudits for her scene with Alexander Khovanskiy’s eternal student, Trofimov as she confessed first her wayward love life and then assaulted him for growing old and achieving nothing. Exit with a swish.

You don’t get that kind of melodramatic gesture with English productions. Nor, fascinatingly, some of the different emphases English translations choose to exercise.

I don’t remember a Cherry Orchard where the peasant Emancipation figured so prominently or repeatedly. Trofimov has a startling line when attacking the hypocrisy of the intelligentsia and their useless talk whilst peasants continue to suffer appalling conditions. They are, he says, like so many “human beings staring out from tree trunks”. That suffering is going to have to be atoned for in the future.

In this saddest of comedies about human frailty, greed, work and loss, Galina Volchek’s stately production – that nonetheless reflects Chekov’s contending blends of farce, compassion, cruelty and tragedy – ends on a dying fall, the cast as one facing out like so many ghosts from the past. On the whole, memorable.

Ranevskaya: Marina Neelova.
Anya: Viktoria Romanenko.
Varya: Elena Yakovleva.
Gayev: Igor Kvasha.
Lopakhin: Sergey Garmash.
Trofimov: Alexander Khovanskiy.
Simeonov-Pischik: Gennady Frolov.
Sharlotta Ivanovna: Olga Drozkova.
Epikhodov: Ilya Lykov.
Dunyasha: Daria Frolova.
Firs: Valentin Gaft.
Yasha: Valery Shalnykh.
Passerby: Sergey Girin.
Head of Railway Station: Victor Tulchinskiy.
Postal Official: Vladimir Suvorov.

Director: Galina Volchek.
Designers: Pavel Kaplevich, Peter Kirillov.
Lighting: Efim Udler, Vladimir Urazbakhtin.
Music: Rafail Khozaik.
Costume: Vyacheslav Zaaitsev.

The Moscow Sovremennik Theatre season ran from 21-29 Jan 2011 at the Noel Coward Theatre London with Into the Whirlwind (21, 22Jan), Three Sisters (24, 25 Jan) and The Cherry Orchard (28, 29 Jan). Artistic Director: Galina Volchek.

2011-01-29 01:34:12

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