by Anton Chekhov new version by Torben Betts from a literal translation by Helen Rappaport.
Open Air Theatre Inner Circle Regent’s Park NW1 4NU To 18 July 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.15pm.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 826 4242.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 June.
a season in the country like a night out on the town.
Holding a mirror up to nature is theatre’s job says Shakespeare’s Hamlet. So it’s a mite perverse that Matthew Dunster’s production of this play by a dramatist who did that supremely well, in an open-air parkland theatre, has a giant mirror above Jon Bausor’s bare design (grass floor for the first half, tiling for the second) angled to ignore the greenery and reflect the characters on stage.
Its impact lets the characters acting-out their emotions below be seen simultaneously as if reduced in scale; cut down, as it were, to size. In particular, Janie Dee’s volatile Arkadina seems to look up at times, checking in her home life on the impact she’s having, ever the actress presenting herself.
The reflection emphasises how much characters keep trying to make an impression on somebody; successful middle-aged writer Trigorin on youthfully attractive Nina, Masha, drinking herself into middle-age, on Arkadina’s writer-son Konstantin. The most open suffer most; Nina, brought near a breakdown in her desperate love of Trigorin, teacher Medviedenko instructed by his wife Masha to trudge six miles home in a storm.
By comparison, the grumblings of estate-owner Sorin in his physical decline are almost philosophical; Ian Redford ensures the physical discomfort, lifetime of command, and semi-detachment from the present all register. More so than the other older, wiser character Dorn, the character Dunster’s approach least accommodates as a doctor who, alone, considers others.
This wide-awake production keeps its audience so, anticipating the strange sound effect prescribed in Chekhov’s last play Cherry Orchard, something like a breaking string. Dunster has repeated loud thuds through the amplifiers, while Bausor’s set contributes to the mood, showing the lake against which fervent young Konstantin’s experimental drama takes place in the opening act first as a lurid painting, soon removed to reveal real water where characters splash about.
While not endorsing subsequent Russian history with a hammer-and-sickle, like some Soviet productions, this nails its colours to the mast through the addition of a silent servant Natasha, seen working, and overhearing the idle, on the estate, sidling into ultimate significance at the decline of the old order.
Nina Zarechnaya: Sabrina Bartlett.
Natasha: Tara D’Arquian.
Irina Arkadina: Janie Dee.
Masha: Lisa Diveney.
Yakov: Tom Greaves.
Simon Medviedenko: Colin Hoult.
Ilia Shamraev: Fraser James.
Paulina Andreevna: Lisa Palfrey.
Peter Sorin: Ian Redford.
Boris Trigorin: Alex Robertson.
Konstantin Trepliov: Matthew Tennyson.
Eugene Dorn: Danny Webb.
Director: Matthew Dunster.
Designer: Jon Bausor.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Movement: Charlotte Broom.
Voice/Text coach: Janis Price.
Assistant designer: Rebecca Brower.