Theatre Review: The Winter’s Tale & The Cherry Orchard, Brooklyn Academy of Music

3 Mar

This is a first in FeignedMischief and hopefully not the last. I am talking about having a guest theatre reviewer, in this case reviewing The Bridge Project’s production of The Winter’s Tale and The Cherry Orchard currently playing in New York.

So how did I finagle a guest reviewer you might ask? As some of you might know, I have been shamelessly using my blog as a platform for my unrequited love for Simon Russell Beale, and you would think that nobody would bother reading it, apparently some have done and now I am shy. As if! Well, one of those who have read through my pining and yearning is Abigail who professes that since she has loved SRB longer, that she deserves him more. Last week, she just happen to cross the Atlantic and coincide her holiday to see the plays! Talk about devotion! So yes, she very kindly will share with us her thoughts of the play (and SRB!) and as a bonus treat, some bits on the Q&A that happened afterwards.

So without further ado, let’s hear it from Abigail.

During a recent trip to NY I saw both the plays featuring the skills of Simone’s (and my!) beloved SRB – Winter’s Tale and Cherry Orchard – plus a Q&A with some of the cast after the performance of the latter. As requested, my thoughts on them both I will now relate.

First overall impression – Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theatre is in a part of Brooklyn that’s quite nasty but it is a really fabulous theatre and worth a visit if you’re in the area.

harvey-theatre

Second overall impression – the plays are doing good business and SRB is getting plenty of love! Both times I was there the theatre was sold out and there was a queue for returns. I also heard comments about how good he was and the regular BAM audiences seem know him well, since he has been in plays there previously, so I overheard quite a few people saying that they always see him when they can and wish he would go to NY more often.

So first of all – The Winter’s Tale. Beautiful set, lots of candles. SRB plays the jealous king very well – angrily, of course, but also lots of agonising so that you can see he is torturing himself and you have sympathy for him rather than just thinking he is a nutter. And the endis very, very touching – annoyingly I was sitting right at the side so a lot of the time I was seeing the back of his head rather than his face but he even acted well with that! The middle of the play changes direction sharply and it takes a moment to reconcile yourself to the sudden change of tone but it is well done, and entertaining. Whole cast excellent – Rebecca Hall as Hermione particularly so.

leontes_hermione

srb_leontes

And then – The Cherry Orchard. Again beautifully staged and SRB very good as the rich ex-peasant trying to persuade his family’s ex-masters to stop prevaricating and do something to get themselves out of their financial mess. There is a fab moment when he interrupts a party to tell them he has bought their estate and stamps round a circle of chairs, almost like a Russian dance, throwing them over to show that it’s his now and he can do what he wants.

srbcherry

lopakhin_varya

The after-show talk was very interesting. The cast agreed that the Cherry Orchard had been harder to learn than The Winter’s Tale, and SRB added that it was because the language was more ordinary, whereas in Winter’s Tale he got to say words like “sluic’d”, which stick in the brain. One question was about the relevance of the Cherry Orchard in our current economic climes. Sinead Cusack answered about people living in bubbles and not facing up to troubles ahead. SRB added that CO had played on the night of Obama’s inauguration and that had been meaningful for him (SRB) when he had said the lines about being “the master of the estate where my grandfather was a slave”.

Another question to SRB was prefaced with a lot of flattery about how he always brings out the hidden sensitivity of characters and that his Hamlet was the best she had seen, so how does he do that? After going a bit pink and modestly saying he didn’t know what she meant, he said that one key to understanding Lopakhin was the idea that he was in love with Ranevskaya because she had been kind to him as a child – that brought out the vulnerability of the character.

Those were the main bits, I think – and probably more info than anyone wanted to know, except me and thee, Simone! Both plays highly recommended when they come over here in spring/summer (though I think BAM is a much nicer theatre than the Old Vic so I’m glad I caught them there).

Talk about whetting our appetite! Thanks Abigail for this wonderful review and be seeing you soon!

Click here to book your tickets for The Bridge Project at The Old Vic that will start in the UK on 23 May

Photos courtesy of BAM’s Flickr photostream

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