The Lady With A Little Dog & The Bear by Anton Chekhov. The Union Theatre,229 Union Street, London SE4 2o 27 August 2022. 4****. William Russell.

Chekhov’s story about the lady with the little dog and his one act comedy about the widow and the man trying to collect a debt from her are staged as two handers by director Dmitry Turchaninov who has secured impeccable performances from Anna Viller and James Viller. The first one starts in Yalta where unhappily married banker Dmitri (James Viller) sees a young woman walking alone with her dog. She is Anna (Anna Viller) who is married but not happily. He seems at first a bit of a predator as he makes up for the shortcomings in his marriage by being repeatedly unfaithful. For her it is an adventure. But holidays come to an end. What will happen? Turchaninov has set the action which takes place on a virtually bare stage against a background of period news reels projected on the back wall which adds a splendid dimension to what we see happening. Dmitri narrates the story stepping in and out of the action to address the audience and the result is a compelling piece of theatre. In the second play Popova (Anna Viller) is a widow who has taken to believing she is inconsolable. Into her life comes Smirnov (James Viller), a bombastic retired Artillery Lieutenant who has come to ask her to repay a debt owned by her late husband. He needs the money at once. She insists it will have to wait until her agent can go to the bank next day. The pair have a war of words which climaxes in a demand by him for a duel – she has the pistols – and then to the realisation that he has finally met the woman for him. It makes a fine contrast to the preceding play.

It is a worth while evening in the theatre – worth enduring the Union’s latest seating for. Take a cushion or be prepared to suffer.

Anna/Popova: Anna Viller.

Dmitri/Smirnov: James Viller.

Director: Dmitry Turchaninov.

Costume Design: Liina Zukova.

Set Design: Richard Morrel.

Lighting Design: Arturo Sakura.

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