by Anton Chekhov.
Wyndhams Theatre Charing Cross Road WC2H 0DA In rep to 3 May 2014.
7.30pm 26, 28 April, 1, 2 May.
2.30pm 3 May.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 482 5120.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 April.
Fine female performances are this Vanya’s strongest aspect.
It’s no insult to say the finest moments in Andrei Konchalovsky’s production of Uncle Vanya, in London briefly from Moscow’s Mossovet State Academic Theatre, occur just before the interval and in the closing scene.
What they have in common is Sonya, a fine spirit lacking obvious physical beauty. Even the placebo about her beautiful hair is wasted when that hair’s bound under the headgear that’s part of her grey working clothes.
The comment comes from Elena, the beautiful young wife unhappily married to a dry old academic (like Masha in Three Sisters she married an older, unsuitable man when she was young and impressionable). It’s part of their sudden shared confidences and friendship during a night-time storm.
The scene is finely played by both. For once, they’re away from men. When Konchalovsky puts the sexes together the results can be awkward and contrived. Neighbour Telegin’s trouble holding the wool for sewing, Vanya imprisoned within the back of a chair are simply awkward; Astrov’s assault on Elena (paralleled by an incident in Three Sisters), like the heavy modern traffic sounds and film are ill-fitting directorial intrusions, the latter contrasting images of old Russia (its elegance and poverty) and a final picture of deserted fields.
These make over-obvious points, though Astrov’s sexual advances lead to pointedly hearty talk about the weather between him and Vanya, who discovered him in flagrante – part of the continuing male conspiracy to pretend nothing untoward had happened.
Throughout, Sonya’s smiles and underlying sadness provide a clearly-defined gauge of the character’s emotions, in a world where others’ desires buzz around her – and servants scrub the floor; making the point dachas don’t keep themselves clean any more than estates run themselves.
Then, when all is over, it becomes too much. In startling contrast to the usual patient comforting of Vanya, Sonya’s anger boils over as she sweeps everything from the desk dominating the room. It’s probably perverse in Chekhovian terms but seen once it’s psychologically convincing and, set against Telegin’s soft guitar folk-melody, brings a closing shock to this world almost as sharp as Cherry Orchard’s breaking string.
Alexander Serebryakov: Alexander Filippenko/Vladas Bagdonas.
Elena: Nataliya Vdovina.
Sofya: Yulia Vysotskaya.
Maria Voinitskaya: Irina Kartasheva.
Ivan Voinitsky: Pavel Derevyanko.
Mikhail Astrov: Alexander Domogarov.
Ilya Telegin: Alexander Bobrovsky.
Marina: Larisa Kuznetsova.
Vera Petrovna: Ramune Khodorkaite.
Director/Designer: Andrei Konchalovsky.
Scenic Designer: Lyubov Skorina.
Lighting: Andrey Izotov.
Composer: Eduard Artemyev.
Costume: Rustam Khamdamov.
Assistant movement: Ramune Khodorkaite.