by Anton Chekhov new adaptation by Mike Poulton.

The Print Room 34 Hereford Road W2 5AJ To 28 April 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.

revived at The Print Room 18 June-7 July 2012.

TICKETS: 08444 77 1000/020 7221 6036.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 March.

Chekhov the writer of human comedy, with space for female friendship and lives on the periphery.
With just two rows of audience around the stage, characters entering from doors constructed at the corners of William Dudley’s set, the Print Room evokes a fin de siècle Russian country estate. Life goes on, with noises in the night and the uproarious third act end segueing loudly into preparations for the guests’ departure, leaving the estate to face another isolated winter.

So the final near-silence is strongly felt in Lucy Bailey’s production. Yet things get uproarious in the previous act when 49-year old Vanya, feeling he’s wasting his life, despite patient years managing the family estate, behaves like a child – putting up his hand to ask a question of the overbearing Professor who’s deciding their fates, then chasing him, armed and angry.

The sense of life leaking away has been clear from the moment Iain Glen first appears, with the look and walk of habituated purposelessness.

Bailey injects energy while showing irritations and frustrations. Lucinda Millward’s bored young wife to crabby old Prof Serebryakov (David Yelland, a superbly dry, self-assured academic, obsessed with his discomforts, lecturing others and throwing a tantrum when surprised by opposition) doesn’t employ the lassitude frequent in the role – many a Yelena has draped herself around the furniture like a Salvador Dali watch.

Instead she shows suppressed passion – for William Houston’s forceful Astrov, and for friendship with Charlotte Emmerson’s Sonya. They’re physical opposites, Yelena all softness, Sonya, hair-back, sharp-featured and active, but Bailey develops the friendship in their scenes either side of the interval.

There’s also particular interest in the surrounding characters: Caroline Blakiston’s straight-backed, traditionally-dressed mother, stony before Vanya’s pleas, contrasting Marlene Sidaway’s old nurse, giving him and Sonya maternal comfort.

David Shaw-Parker’s neighbour Telegin is a fine portrait of a hanger-on, unaware of his unimportance (Yelland’s dismissive Serebryakov makes clear how unimportant), his bustling energy seeking to deny life’s disappointments – Shaw-Parker’s guitar skills suggest one coping strategy. And the final scene’s opening, where Telegin and Marina sit amiably together laughing at his imitation of others’ indignation, suggests how much easier life is for those not afflicted with a drive for personal fulfilment.

Marina: Marlene Sidaway.
Astrov: William Houston.
Vanya: Iain Glen.
Serebryakov: David Yelland.
Telegin: David Shaw-Parker.
Sonya: Charlotte Emmerson.
Maria Vasilyevna: Caroline Blakiston.
Yelena: Lucinda Millward.
Yefim/Labourer: Andrew Hanratty.

Director: Lucy Bailey.
Designer: William Dudley.
Lighting: Richard Howell.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.
Assistant director: Oscar Toeman.

2012-03-30 15:56:46

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