The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry in co-production with Arcola Theatre
Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov
In a new version by Helena Kaut-Howson and Jon Strickland
Belgrade Tkts: 024 7655 3055
Runs: 2h 45: one interval: till 23 April
Start: 8 pm:
Matinees: Weds 20 and Sats 9, 16 & 23 April, 2.45pm
No performances on Good Friday, 22 April.
Review: Jan Pick
Summer Storms in old Russia
It is as if the audience is watching from the front garden of the estate as the retired celebrity, Professor, Alexander Serebryakov and his beautiful young wife, Yelena, arrive home from the city, creating a stir in the enervating heat of a Russian summer. Further back, beyond the humdrum living room set, inaccessible, tantalising views of beautiful countryside and silver-lit trees beckon – a utopian dream that is just out of reach for most of the characters in ‘Uncle Vanya’, Chekhov’s tragic-comic masterpiece.
Like ripples in a pool, the presence of the visitors affects all around them, stirring up frustrations, hopes, passions and despair. When they leave the lives of those on the estate will never be the same again.
The cast are excellent, with particularly fine performances from Jon Strickland as Vanya, whose disillusion manifests itself in desperate, yet ultimately impotent action and Hara Yannas as Sonya, his niece, giving an endearing poignant warmth to the role of the plain, hardworking daughter of the professor and his first wife, in her hopeless and unrequited love for the doctor, Astrov.
Simon Gregor as Astrov, striking a contemporary nerve with his obsession for saving the forests, is compelling as his vocation to heal the sick is compromised by his passion for Yelena, gracefully played by Marianne Oldham, and Geoffrey Whitehead makes an irascible, tetchy and self-centred professor unexpectedly sympathetic, as he struggles to remain in the limelight despite his rapidly receding celebrity.
Direction, set and lighting help to convey a sense of stultifying heat and inertia, making the moments of explosive action all the more shockingly dramatic in this totally convincing, frustrating yet compelling production. It is an ‘Uncle Vanya’ that will remain in the memory for a long time to come.
Professor Alexander Serebryakov: Geoffrey Whitehead
Yelena Serebryakov, his second wife: Marianne Oldham
Sonya Serebryakov, his daughter: Hara Yannas
Ivan (Vanya) Voinitsky: Jon Strickland
Maria Voinitskaya, Vanya’s mother: Ellen Sheean
Doctor Mikhail Astrov: Simon Gregor
Ilya Telegin (Porridge): Paul Bigley
Marina (Nyanya), the family nurse: Tricia Kelly
Workman: Tim Gallagher
Director: Helena Kaut-Howson
Designer: Sophie Jump
Composer: Boleslaw Rawski
Sound Designer: Paul Bull
Lighting Designer: Alex Wardle
Stage Manager: Steve Cressy
DSM: Kate Wilson
ASM (Belgrade): David James Morris
ASM (Arcola): Briony Morris
Assistant Director: Katharine Armitage
Assistant Director: Paul Baston