The Cherry Orchard
Anton Chekov’s acclaimed final masterpiece, The Cherry Orchard, took to the stage at Bristol Old Vic this month with a 15-strong cast of award-winning actors, director, Michael Boyd and playwright, Rory Mullarkey.
It’s a striking 19th century play about property, ownership and slavery which focuses on new money becoming powerful enough to turn the newly-impecunious aristocracy off their inherited land.
You’d think it wouldn’t come with much humour, or decency? But it does, in spadefuls because Chekov was a doctor who knew the vulnerability of the human hearts he treated (and often those who couldn’t afford to pay him).
He has sympathy for the in-denial landowner, Madam Ranyevskaya (played brilliantly by Kirsty Bushell, BBC’s Motherland). This family lynchpin who’s run out of cash and privilege is still tipping people with gold when she’s run out of silver.
By turns, Ranyevskaya is a glamorous woman who puts her fingers in her ears and closes her eyes when the money dries up. She simply hopes and doesn’t know how to live otherwise while her teenage daughters learn fast and her young drowned son haunts her mind and the stage beautifully.
New money arrives in the seductive shape of former estate serf, Yermolai Lopakhin (Jude Owusu), who has made good despite (or because of) his drunk and violent father. No longer in the thrall of aristocracy, Lopakhin’s wealth appears to offer the old family a financial lifeline. But it costs a very high price as new money takes on old. And Lopakhin isn’t about to be so altruistic as to miss out on profit where he can make a mint tearing down a mansion and replacing it with weekend holiday homes.
The Cherry Orchard has a visceral modern feel about greed and education and the beauty of nature that we disregard all too easily (rich or poor).
I loved Eva Magyar as Charlotte Ivanova, theatrical, appealing (and looking remarkably like Kristen Scott Thomas), and Simon Coates’ interpretation of Uncle Gayev, Madam Ranyevskaya' delusional brother: the vodka-loving chatterer who is frequently told to be silent but cannot keep his mouth shut and Togo Igawa (the first Japanese actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company) who plays sweet Firs, an ever-loyal servant who literally dies on the job.
Genius Chekov once said: "Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress.” He knew all about poverty and violence and despite contracting life-limiting tuberculosis in his mid-20s and dying aged 44, he transformed Russian (and global) literature.
This is an excellent production, ably directed by Michael Boyd, the former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, who studied Russian and trained in Moscow.
While The Cherry Orchard is regarded as a serious political play, Chekov himself described it as comedy and it is full of wild humour and piercing sadness, offering a fresh and unique portrait of changing times.
Chekov ably depicts those who want to desperately clutch on to the familiar and those who are attracted to change with all the bittersweet tensions that holds.
Read Chekov’s superb short stories and see how capably he holds the human heart and watch this production to witness just how easily an audience can understand the importance of every soul.
The Cherry Orchard runs until Saturday, April 7, with performances at 7.30pm and at slected matinees on Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm.
Tickets £7.50-£35.50 with group concessions.
For more information visit the new website by clicking HERE
It's cherry blossom time
PREVIEW: Anton Chekov’s final masterpiece, The Cherry Orchard is on stage at Bristol Old Vic from Thursday to Saturday, March 1-April 7, with a cast of award-winning actors, director and playwright.
'Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress,’ Chekov once wrote.
And what a mistress.
The doctor, who transformed literature and treated the poor for free, came from a poverty-stricken and violent childhood.
He contracted life-limiting tuberculosis in his mid-20s, dying aged 44.
The Cherry Orchard is translated by prize-winning Rory Mullarkey and directed by Michael Boyd, former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company who studied Russian and trained in Moscow.
It stars Madam Ranyevskaya (Kirsty Bushell, BBC’s Motherland) as the family lynchpin who leads a privileged family of denial as the world outside their luxurious estate (which includes a cherry orchard), falls apart.
She returns home just before her mansion is auctioned to pay the mortgage.
Lopakhin (Jude Owusu, BBC’s Hollow Crown) is the hard-grafting son of one of Ranyevskaya’s serfs.
No longer in the thrall of aristocracy, Lopakhin’s new-found wealth seems to offer the family a financial lifeline.
But it cost a very high price as new money takes on old.
Before you think The Cherry Orchard is a political play that will leave you decidedly depressed, Chekov described it as a comedy although it’s often treated as a tragedy.
It is full of wild humour and piercing sadness which offers a fresh portrait of changing times.
Chekov depicts those who want to desperately clutch on to the familiar and those attracted to change with all the bittersweet tensions that holds.
The large cast is joined by award-winning Simon Coates, Ranyevskaya’s delusional brother Gayev and BAFTA-nominated Togo Igawa as elderly servant, Firs.
In 1986, Igawa became the first Japanese actor to join The Royal Shakespeare Company and his work includes Star Wars - The Last Jedi.
Julius D’Silva takes on the role of landowner Pischik (Notes On A Scandal, Endgame and The Crown), while Hungarian actress Éva Magyar takes the role of Charlotta.
Performances at 7.30pm with selected Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm.
Tickets £7.50 to £35.50.