by Anton Chekhov translated by Michael Frayn.

Minerva Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 5 May 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 2.30pm (seats currently available for 30 April, 5 May eve).
Audio-described 20 April, 21 April 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.

TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 April.

Lives falling apart around the samovar.
If Jeremy Herrin’s Chichester Vanya and Lucy Bailey’s at London’s Print Room had opened a week apart, as has happened, but in reverse order, would it have made much difference to how seeing one might influence perceptions of the other?

It’s a particularly intriguing point with a Chekhov play, where so much is open to interpretation. And it is difficult not to look at how aspects Bailey explored are handled by Herrin. But it would be wrong to let either define responses to the other; both stand strongly in their own right, If the relation between the two women whose youth is disappearing, Sonya and Yelena, was prominent in London, the Minerva noticeably contrasts Vanya and his doctor friend Astrov.

Alexander Hanson’s Astrov, the younger of the two, is still upright, energetic, complains about being fetched miles for vanishing illnesses and pursues the phantom patient, Serebryakov’s, attractive young wife with energy. Roger Allam’s Vanya has seen enough of his middle-age pass to know defeat in life, from his first lumbering appearance, struggling with the door.

His awkwardness remains, when he brings roses only to find Yelena kissing Astrov, or when fury finally goads him to action and he twice misses in his attempts to shoot Serebryakov.

Allam has the sense of a powerful person, but his Vanya is turned-in on himself, mental and physical qualities atrophying. Yet his hate-figure, Serbryakov – who has attained academic height (or so it seems from this country estate) without any notable qualities – gains chiefly by self-confidence amidst his misery.

Timothy West shows the Professor’s own failures. His success has gained him an attractive young wife (acquiring the status of sex-goddess amid these ruined forests) in an unhappy marriage, tetchiness and the inability to raise a smile when he attempts a joke.

With Dervla Kirwan’s Sonya seeming to ride above the rural agonies for some time, then coping with her disappointment and soothing Vanya when the visitors have left and winter approaches, plus Maggie Steed as an aged parent fretting in her own world of assumptions and faith in the Professor, it’s a dynamic, affecting production.

Professor Serebryakov: Timothy West.
Yelena: Lara Pulver.
Sonya: Dervla Kirwan.
Maria Vasilyevna: Maggie Steed.
Vanya: Roger Allam.
Astrov: Alexander Hanson.
Telegin: Anthony O’Donnell.
Marina: Maggie McCarthy
Watchmen: Steve Chadwick, Charles de Bromhead.

Director: Jeremy Herrin.
Designer: Peter McKintosh.
Lighting: Chahine Yavroyan.
Sound: Fergus O’Hare.
Music: Dario Marianelli.
Assistant director: Jeff James.

2012-04-16 11:00:38

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