My second Chekhov performance in a week was very different from my first, but I liked it just as much, if not more. Adapted by Simon Stephens and directed by Katie Mitchell, this production of The Cherry Orchard took place at the Young Vic.
Played straight through without an interval, it was an atmospheric production, notable for the fact it takes place in the nursery – bringing the tragic death of Madame Ranyevskaya’s son, which was the catalyst that prompted her to leave the estate originally, to the forefront of our attention. The gist of the story is that Ranyevskaya cannot bear to sell the orchard of the title to pay her debts, burying her head in the sand until it is too late and the orchard is sold and cut down by her neighbour and self-made businessman, Lopakhin. As a commentary on the old world versus the new it remains relevant, and considering it was first performed in 1904, over a decade before the Russian Revolution, rather prescient.
A big point of interest for me was the portrayal of Yasha (Tom Mothersdale) as a vicious bully, rendering his treatment of the elderly Firs (Gawn Grainger) particularly repulsive. Kate Duchêne gives a sympathetic performance as Ranyevskaya in a powerful production filled with strong performances. A disappointment for me was the scene between Lopakhin and Varya, in which the hoped-for proposal of marriage never materialises. This heartbreaking scene is normally one of the highlights of the play: here, however, it is rushed.
Overall, though, this is an interesting production offering a different perspective on one of Chekhov’s greatest plays.