The Cherry Orchard

The Cherry Orchard is often described as Chekhov’s greatest play. His 1903 drama enjoyed a strong reception on first production, and its reputation has stood the test of time. This production by the Arcola Theatre, directed by Mehmet Ergen, offers a fresh interpretation of this great work, in a version by Trevor Griffiths. Iona McLeish’s set is a masterstroke: a white bookcase out of which stretch enormous white branches, emphasising the importance of the cherry orchard to the family’s history.

In the play, Madame Ranevskaya returns from Paris to her beloved estate and cherry orchard. Told that she must sell it in order to pay her debts, Lopakhin – a former serf turned successful businessman – offers her an alternative: turn the cherry orchard into holiday homes. But Ranevskaya will have none of it, and loses her chance to change the course of events.

Ultimately the play is about the end of the old world order and the beginning of the new. I’ve often thought that the play is spookily prescient in its talk of revolution, particularly in the character of the student Trofimov (Abhin Galeya). In these years before the Russian Revolution there is a profound conviction that change is coming.

As Ranevskaya, Siân Thomas is superb, while Pernille Broch and Jade Williams convince as her daughters Anya and Varya. Jude Akuwudike is extremely strong as Lophakhin, and having the character played by a black man reinforces his status as an outsider. Robin Hooper lends the character of Firs the ageing butler a sympathetic dignity.

I also liked Simon Scardifield as the clumsy Epikhodov. In fact many of the actors from the recent production of The Lower Depths are also present here. It seems highly appropriate that this domestic drama with its undercurrents of change and revolutionary ideals should close the Arcola’s Revolution season.


One thought on “The Cherry Orchard

  1. Greetings Laura,
    My partner & I follow a bit of theatre, (particularly the bard, A Chekhov, & musicals), so I am writing to mention the forthcoming Three Sisters at the Piccadily Theatre 11-13 May 2017 by the Russian company Sovremennik. Performance will be in Russian with surtitles. Do you have a take on this? If like me Sovremennik has just swum into your ken, google Vremennik and the gates of hell, by Stuart Jeffries, Guardian 4 January 2011. Unfortunately tickets look to cost about £40.
    Anyway, love your Keatsian moniker & I am excessively fond of Newcastle and Tynemouth, so – good luck to you. …One other query, do you follow RADA productions? We saw a super Winters Tale there recently, the students’ elocution was incredible – handy, since any good Shakespeare production is 90 percent about realising the text. We are of an age to understand the play’s beautiful idea of reconciliation through the younger generation – Will truly was a writer for all time.
    Yours sincerely,
    Don Gillett.

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