I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Chekhov is my favourite playwright of all time. I first became aware of this Young Chekhov trilogy project last year, but I wasn’t able to make the trip to Chichester, so was thrilled when a transfer to the National Theatre was announced. Not wanting to do things by halves, I booked for a trilogy day – as it happened, the last of the season – so it was still morning when I took my seat for Platonov.
Chekhov’s earliest full-length play – which runs for over five hours uncut and was originally untitled – has been adapted and renamed frequently. This version by David Hare captures the youthful sadness in the piece, but also its farcical nature. Almost melodramatic at times, particularly in the ending, the play sees a young Chekhov working out the themes of loss, melancholy and love that would feature in his late works.
Platonov sees the title character, played perfectly by James McCardle, find himself at the centre of a crowd of women, including his wife, a country hostess, a former flame and a young girl, all of whom demand his love and attention. McCardle exudes a charm and a charisma that makes it apparent why all the women would fall for him, while maintaining a sense of innocence and bewilderment at the turn his life has taken. There is strong work too from Nina Sosanya as Anna Petrovna, a confident and able woman who nevertheless falls under Platonov’s spell, and Sarah Twomey as the shy Maria. The play contains a great deal of humour: my favourite scene sees Platonov try to take refuge in his schoolroom only to find all the women visiting him in turn.
Chekhov’s early play without a title might not be a polished piece of work, but in this strong production, Platonov becomes a hugely enjoyable piece with a lot to say.