by Anton Chekhov new version by Helena Kaut-Howson and Jon Strickland.
Arcola Theatre (Arcola 1) 24 Ashwin Street E8 3DL To 4 June 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 55min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 April.
Showing lives as they were lived, if not reaching the heights by plumbing the depths of experience.
Cast great actors in Chekhov’s major plays and the production focuses on individual dilemmas. Cast actors of equal capability and a sense of ensemble life is achieved at the loss of full depth.
Director Helena Kaut-Howson’s Arcola co-production with Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre takes the second path. Aging Vanya, working with Sonya to manage the country estate that keeps her unspeakable, ex-academic father Serebreyakov going, sees his life disappearing. When the Professor arrives in the country with a beautiful young wife Yelena, Vanya has a final shot at retrieving some purpose. But Yelena no more fancies Vanya than family friend Astrov does Sonya.
Even emerging love between Astrov and Yelena has nowhere to go, and the doctor’s all-too-Russian future with the vodka bottle is evident.
Kaut-Howson makes time for characters’ feelings to emerge in the languid heat, especially during the silences in the first two of Chekhov’s four acts, as characters lie listlessly, or Sonya, practical and never giving up on life, mounts the table to fix a lamp as Serebryakov, across the stage, fusses and complains.
Sonya adjusts the same lamp at the end, as she prepares to go through the estate’s many invoices, which a depressed Vanya allows to tumble onto the floor. Setting to work with a quiet optimism, she comforts him, rubbing his arm.
The “rest” she feels assured will come hasn’t been her defining characteristic. Lamps apart, Hara Yannas’ Sonya shows a lively eagerness alongside her acceptance she’s not beautiful, contrasting the languid beauty which Marianne Oldham’s Yelena indicates is wasted with her tetchy old husband. These women’s friendship provides a sudden mid-point energy – It’s a rare illumination, mirrored here as the night-time room brightens.
As life continues, minor characters make their mark – Tricia Kelly’s old Nurse, a babushka-doll figure ever-watchful and comforting, or unassertive neighbour Telegyin, idly strumming his guitar and relating everything with great seriousness (to comic effect) to his failed marriage. And Ellen Sheean as Vanya’s Serebryakov-besotted mother, turning the information the Professor and his wife have left into an accusation against her son. Of such minor matters are these lives made.
Professor Alexander Serebryakov: Geoffrey Whitehead.
Yelena Andreyevna: Marianne Oldham.
Sonya Alexandrovna: Hara Yannas.
Ivan Voinitsky: Jon Strickland.
Maria Voinitskaya: Ellen Sheean.
Doctor Mikmhail Astrov: Simon Ggregor.
Ilya Telegin: Paul Bigley.
Marina: Tricia Kelly.
Workman: Ediz Fehmi/Joe Sarrington.
Director: Helena Kaut-Howson.
Designer: Sophie Jump.
Lighting: Alex Warfdle.
Sound: Paul Bull.
Composer: Boleslaw Rawski.
Assistant directors: Katharine Armitage, Paul Baston.