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Nottingham.

THE CHERRY ORCHARD: Anton Chekhov.
4Stars****


Nottingham Playhouse.
www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 30m: one interval: till 18th November.
Performance times 7.30pm (matinée 1.30pm Thurs 16th).
Audio Described Performances Thurs 16th 7.45pm.
Captioned and Signed Performance Weds 15th.7.45pm.
Review: Alan Geary: 7th November 2017.


The strengths of the evening easily counter its weaknesses.

This is the last of about, we’re told, fifty plays directed at Nottingham Playhouse by out-going Artistic Director, Giles Croft. A happy duty therefore to report that it’s a fitting and enjoyable interpretation of a classic.

Aside from the obvious merits of The Cherry Orchard as a play, one of Chekhov’s greatest, the other pleasure of this production lies in the main performances. Sara Stewart is a fine protagonist, Lyubov – the middle-aged beauty, tragically bereaved, affectionate but hopeless with love affairs and money – just returned from Paris to preside over her failed estate.

It’s an effective directorial move to have the crumbling-mansion set half dismantled at the end by real-life back-stage staff – another meta-theatrical snatch, this time Chekhov’s, comes when the main characters discuss theatre and audiences.

Croft fields a lot of Nottingham Playhouse regulars. Robin Kingsland, as Lyubov’s brother, Leonid, is excellent. John Elkington as ex-serf Lopakhin, likewise; new-money Lopakhin lacks high culture and education but is the most well-organised – and richest – person in the play.

Jamie De Courcey utterly convinces as Trofimov, the perpetual student and poor socialist-idealist; and Jonathan Oliver is terrific as neighbouring land-owner Simeonov-Pishchik. Faithful old retainer, Firs, is expertly milked by Kenneth Alan Taylor. As well as generating a lot of the laughs – this is comedy as well as tragedy – Firs is a flesh-and-blood symbol of the dying of the old order.

Some melancholic, and beautifully composed background music is thematically well-suited to what is a state-of-the-nation play.

But why the up-date of costumes and on-stage songs? In other respects proceedings are firmly set at the turn of the 19th into 20th century Russia. Serfdom has been abolished within living memory – Lopakhin and Firs were born into it. The landed gentry are an anachronism – the Ranevski estate with its famous cherry orchard has to go – and the new rich, like Lopakhin, are on the rise. Marxism and westernisation are represented by Trofimov.

But the strengths of the evening easily counter its weaknesses.


Varya: Babirye Bukilwa.
Yasha: Graham Butler.
Peter Trofimov: Jamie De Courcey.
Alexander Lopakhin: John Elkington.
Dunyasha: Sasha Frost.
Lev the Station Master/Traveller: Rob Goll.
Leonid Gayev: Robin Kingsland.
Guest at Ball/Dance Captain: Laura Mae Mellor.
Boris Simeonov-Pishchik: Jonathan Oliver.
Simeon Yepikhodov: Patrick Osborne.
Anya: Evlyne Oyedokun.
Madame Lyubov Raneskya: Sara Stewart.
Charlotta Ivanovna: Claire Storey.
Firs: Kenneth Alan Taylor.


Director: Giles Croft.
Designer: Tim Meacock.
Lighting Designer: Steph Bartle.
Sound Designer/Composer: Adam McCready.
 
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