The Cherry Orchard

Thu 1st – Sat 17th August 2013

reviews

Amber Segal

at 06:15 on 5th Aug 2013

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Has anyone ever paired ‘The Smiths’ with Anton Chekhov before? Regardless, the match is near perfect in my opinion and this Kronos Productions updating of The Cherry Orchard pulls it off with beautiful subtlety. Adapted and directed by Ben Weaver-Hincks and Felix Stevenson, the play features four snapshots of a family in several kinds of liminal space. Between the old world and the new, the rich and the poor, each character is part of a blurred line where they once were in focus.

With a flawless minimal set and chic but ambiguous costumes, the actors’ deliveries and expressions were allowed to shine. The mother, played by Daisy Cummins, was particularly brilliant in this respect. Steely eyes and money in her voice, she gradually develops the character without losing her satisfyingly sharp edge. Alfie (Stevenson) was also impressive in his command of the stage and portrayed the conflict laid out in his opening speech with finesse. Caitlin McEwan convincingly embodied the downtrodden Holly, opposite Theo Harrison’s painfully human and sympathetic Simon. All acting was restrained and realistic, even the stock characters of bumbling uncle and ‘eternal student’. This was especially admirable considering the expositional nature of some of the dialogue.

Although the 1980’s setting is apparent, it is never distracting but more a subtle backdrop. The English-Russian parallels are multiple – frequent references to the disappointing weather and late trains make this both inherently British and true to the source material. The translation made the language accessible but never dumbed down, and retained the fine lines between hope, longing and despair that is so characteristic of Chekhov. The delicacy of the piece was consistent throughout as the universal themes of class and innocence ran as gentle undercurrents to the enthralling country-house drama.

The cleverness of the production made me wish it was longer - an unfamiliar feeling to have in a Russian play. While the difficulty of chopping it down was handled extremely well, some of the character arcs would have benefited from more time on stage. Although the lighting was slightly heavy handed in places and a few sentences were lost due to quietness or a head turned too far from the audience, these are mere minutiae in an otherwise utterly stunning performance.

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Rose Bonsier

at 11:25 on 5th Aug 2013

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When I heard that I’d be watching an adaptation of The Cherry Orchard set in the 1980s I was initially uncertain. Time and time again when bringing an older play into a more modern context productions have taken it too far, or created an interpretation that really doesn’t fit comfortably with the original text. This adaptation, though, was subtly executed in a way that fitted seamlessly with the story and retained all of the most important elements of the play.

The most vital thing that this company had managed to successfully keep was the symbolism of the cherry orchard itself. Whilst Madame Ranevskaya’s more extensive musings on the past and the orchard’s place in her life were cut due to time constraints, the general sense of her hurt and loss came across very well. There were some lovely moments of musing at the end of the play by Louisa, who was the character of Ranevskaya in this adaptation. Louisa was played with great authority by Daisy Cummins who simultaneously projected strength and tenderness, especially in the scenes with her daughters.

The whole cast, in fact, had been well cast in their roles and all characterized the role they were playing incredibly well. Henry Yorke’s Leonard was suitably well meaning whilst obviously bumbling and absolutely clueless. Felix Stevenson’s Alfie successfully projected a mix of intelligence, practicality and idealism. This was in my mind one of the best and most natural performances even though it didn’t really bring out Alfie’s more ruthless side in his decision to cut down the cherry orchard.

Another key elements that doesn’t often get a mention but made this particular production work very well was the costume; the fact that this was very simply done yet so obviously in-keeping with 80s style made a huge difference to this new interpretation of the play. The set itself was kept very plain, with only the obligatory pieces of furniture covered by white cloths standing out on stage, but once again there was no more and no less than was needed.

Kronos Productions should be very pleased with such an achievement, and I believe this carefully thought out and well-designed production certainly has a life after the Fringe.

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