Tag Archives: Anton Chekhov

Theatre Review: The Cherry Orchard

26 May

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Plot: Madame Ranevskaya (Sinead Cusack), who has spent five years in Paris to escape grief over her young son’s death, returns to her home in Russia ridden with debt. She is obliged to decide how to dispose of her family’s estate, with its beautiful and famous cherry orchard. Their former serf, now coarse but wealthy merchant Ermolai Lopakhin (Simon Russell Beale) suggests that Mme Ranevskaya develop the land on which the orchard sits. Eventually Lopakhin purchases the estate and proceeds with his plans for a housing development. As the unhappy Ranevskayas leave the estate, the sound of saws can be heard in the orchard.

I have been waiting so long for tonight. It’s been 7 months that I have been SRB-deprived and it shows- I am just so uninspired, bored out of my wits! Sure I still go to the theatre but I often come out unmotivated save for a couple I have seen in recent weeks, but the barometer to which I measure this seeming lack of interest is the evidence of my non-blogging for the last 2 months. Now all that will change, the buck stops here because he’s back, yes, my SRB’s come home! For starters, we’re breathing the same air tonight!

I am still riding high on the seemingly honorable mention of being touted as SRB’s devoted blogger by the Times, but as I had to see this play with fellow theatre trotters, I didn’t really want to be an embarrassment, so my normal behaviour when watching an SRB play should have to wait. Did I mention I have already plotted an attack plan having spotted the Old Vic stage door in the interval?

Seriously now, my thoughts. So after a stint in Broadway and a tour that included Singapore, Spain, Germany and New Zealand, The Bridge Project, a collaboration that came into fruition thanks to the theatre genius of Sam Mendes and Kevin Spacey has come back home. I was really looking forward to see this for I havent seen any other Cherry Orchard production and I absolutely adore Anton Chekhov’s work having enjoyed RSC’s The Seagull in 2007 and the Donmar WestEnd’s Ivanov last year. The first scene showed Lopakhin waiting, sitting on this really small chair and the minute he started speaking with that unmistakable plummy voice, he had me, hook, line and sinker. Simon Russell Beale owns this play, just like the cherry orchard he eventually possessed, the play truly belonged to him. Every nuance in Lopakhin’s character, his vulnerability, his unrequited love for Ranevskaya, the playfulness with Varya, the guilt, the joy is delivered brilliantly, you just can not wait to see him come back on that stage.

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This is not to say that the other performances were not good, as it was a delight seeing Sinead Cusack play a frivolous character and then eventually hit hard with the reality of her situation. And Rebecca Hall! By golly but I was jealous of her all evening! I couldnt take my eyes off SRB as he gave her all those knowing looks that it reminded me of that song from Yentl. Hall held her own pretty well as Varya, and the proposal that never happened is one to be remembered. I am a card holding member of the unrequited love fan club united so I know exactly how that feels and the agony of it all captured in essence here.

The Whingers may have observed that SRB is not himself this evening probably having sensed my presence but I digress! Besides, my restraining order expired yesterday. So bring on The Winter’s Tale Friday night!

And I couldn’t say this enough, nice to have you back home. x

The Cherry Orchard: 3.5/5
Playing at the Old Vic until 15 August

Addendum 1
Twitter exchange between yours truly and Kevin Spacey the same evening:

FeignedMischief: I just came back from a preview of The Cherry Orchard and enjoyed it! You have another hit in your hands! Winters Tale Friday!
KevinSpacey: Excellent. Glad you enjoyed it. We are very excited to have such a remarkable company of actors on our stage.
FeignedMischief: Confession. I booked both shows 3 times bec of Simon Russell Beale, hope you 2 can collaborate in the future.

Addendum 2
Fellow theatre trotter, PaulinLondon who saw the play with us Tuesday evening and was also my seatmate was way too kind to dedicate a portion of his own review of the play to mention my fascination with SRB. I was so worried all evening as to how my restrained fidgeting and sighing at the sight of SRB was affecting his viewing experience but for what he had to say about it, I feel so much better now. Paul says, it helped having Feigned Mischief sit beside me. As more than just a casual fan of Simon Russell Beale, she took enjoyment of the play to a whole new level. But then again even if you’re not sitting next to a Simon Russell Beale stalker, it is still worth a look… Cheers for this Paul, and we will Audio Boo next time I hope! x

Addendum 3
Here’s the much awaited West End Whingers take on this play, and to sincerely say that I found their review much amusing. Cheers Andrew & Phil! x

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Theatre Review: The Seagull

13 Dec

Plot: Arkadina (Melanie Jessop), a successful and famous actress, is spending the summer on her brother Sorin’s (Ian McKellen) country estate, accompanied by her younger lover, a successful and famous novelist, Trigorin (Gerald Kyd). Her son, Konstantin (Richard Goulding), himself an aspiring writer, has written a play which is to be performed by Nina (Romola Garai), daughter of a neighbouring landowner, with whom he is rapturously in love. The performance mystifies the spectators and Konstantin is enraged by the frivolous attitude of his mother.

Masha (Monica Dolan), the daughter of the estate steward, Shamrayev (Guy Williams), is secretly in love with Konstantin, but she in turn is loved by Medvedenko (Ben Meyjes), the village schoolteacher. She confesses her feelings to Doctor Dorn (Jonathan Hyde), who himself has secretly been the lover of her mother, Polina (Naomi Capron).

Nina’s feeling for Trigorin changes from admiration to adoration. Konstantin, anguished by the withdrawal of Nina’s feeling for him attempts to commit suicide. Trigorin reciprocates Nina’s passion, and she decides to go to Moscow to become a professional actress. She and Trigori arrange to meet there. The visitors leave.

Two years pass. Everyone is back at the estate. Konstantin has achieved some of his literary ambitions. Masha and Medvedenko are married. Trigorin has resumed his relationship with Arkadina, having ended his affair with Nina, who is now a struggling actress touring the provinces. Nina returns briefly to the neighbourhood, and while the others are at supper, Nina and Konstantin meet again.

My first theater experience was Anton Chekhov‘s The Wedding, a one-act comedy performed by my college repertory in the late 90’s. I was among the few who accepted the free ticket being handed out to all students just happening to pass by and had their free time and as I made my way to the auditorium, I still had no idea who Anton Chekhov was.

Fast forward 17 years later, I am now at the West End, and was about to watch my second Anton Chekhov play, adapted by Trevor Nunn to be performed by the acting ensemble of the world class Royal Shakespeare Company, and I had such a wonderful time. Although my untrained appreciation for the arts was awakened short than a score ago, I am truly amazed and impressed by the talent this company has. It was also a night of understudies as Melanie Jessop took on the role of Arkadina and Naomi Capron as Polina, and can you actually totally tell that these fine performers were just mere understudies? No way, for they were as brilliant as you would hope them to be.

Romola Garai whom I first saw as the adult Briony in the tragic film Atonement was a revelation, she has an awkward sense of fragility and a luminous beauty that was necessary to breathe as Nina. She says with passion, I’m drawn here, like a seagull to the lake, whilst Richard Goulding’s brooding performance as Konstantin was touching and heartrending. Masha’s unrequited love to Konstantin is familiar, and explaining why she wears black all the time may seem sarcastic but ever so felt, ever so real. Ian McKellen as Sorin was not just mere comic relief as well as Jonathan Hyde’s Dr. Dorn who portrayed the epitomé of a Don Juan of the times.

After the performance, RSC’s Assistant Director Gemma Fairlie gave us the opportunity to have a Q&A forum with some of the actors, and what stayed with me was the fact that when they were asked as to which crowd during their world tour proved to be difficult to please, the actors all felt that they had to work much harder to their London audience, and I really don’t know where that came from!

It had been such a great experience and I can’t wait to come back within a fortnight to catch William Shakespeare‘s King Lear.

The Seagull: 4/5

Playing at the New London Theatre until 12 January 08.