by Anton Chekhov translated by Brian Friel
Chichester Festival Theatre In rep to 29 September 2001
Runs 3 hrs One interval
TICKETS 01243 781312
Review Timothy Ramsden 5 September
Lively, intelligent production that falls short of revelatory.
Loveday Ingram’s production should work well for newcomers to Chekhov’s great play.
It’s full of good performances. Sophie Ward’s Olga shows the character’s weary experience, while Janie Dee as Masha is clearly fixated on the visiting army officer Vershinin, exulting in his presence and laughing out loud with an uncontainable joy. Her cry of agony when he leaves is moving, though it could have been heartrending if more carefully built towards throughout the evening.
Susannah Wise conveys Irina’s change from the act one birthday girl rejoicing at the idea of work, to the 24 year old soured by the daily grind. Her repeated ‘Moscow’s at the end of act two are shouts of desperation, her face shows her bitterness when her fiance talks of the dignity of work. Hermione Gulliford’s Natasha, intruder by marriage into the family, is a horror whose flashes of hard-voiced temper explain her dominance.
All the household visitors are clearly characterised, especially David Ryall’s drunken old medic who, with his fatal misdiagnosis, would today be a tabloid sensation. Ryall’s angry disgust with what he’s become is clear as he looks in a mirror and excoriates himself. Ian Gelder’s Kulygin contrives to combine excessive pedantry with a reserved dignity.
Overall though, it’s too restrained. Light and accessible, it often lacks the pain of illusions being smashed, of life going on but also passing these people by. It’s hard to believe Dee’s Masha has endured five years of an illicit relationship with Michael Siberry’s Vershinin, or to relate his philosophising to his disastrous marriage.
Enjoyable then, but moving only in moments; especially the end where the confident military music Olga refers to, always distant, is overtaken by the agony and sadness of Paul Englishby’s score. This, with John Owens’ sound design, enhances the production whenever it is heard.
Masha: Janie Dee
Olga: Sophie Ward
Irina: Susannah Wise
Anfisa: Doreen Keogh
Doctor Chebutykin: David Ryall
Baron Tusenbach: Angus Wright
Captain Solyony: Christopher Staines
Ferapont: John Delaney
Lieutenant Colonel Vershinin: Michael Siberry
Andrey: Richard Henders
Fyodor Kulygin: Ian Gelder
Natasha: Hermione Gulliford
Lieutenant Fedotik: Jim Creighton
Lieutenant Roddey: Nigel Harman
Servants, Soldiers, Musicians: Martin Christopher, Emma Flett, Martin Garfield, John Harwood, Josephine Peer, Chris Yapp
Director: Loveday Ingram
Designer: Colin Falconer
Lighting: Paule Constable
Sound: John Owens for Aura Sound
Composer: Paul Englishby