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A CurtainUp Review
The Cherry Orchard
Dominic Dromgoole brings his considerable directorial talent to this production for the Oxford Stage Company. Samuel Adamson has written this new translation as he did for the very successful 1999 production of The Three Sisters also for the Oxford Stage Company.
The emphasis in Dromgoole's production seems to be that the land owning family are not only ostriches in refusing to meet the inevitable change but shallow in their lack of regard for anyone else. This Cherry Orchard is not a wallow in nostalgic regret. Dromgoole does this by letting Lyubov Ranevskaya (Geraldine James) switch very quickly from sadness at the misery of her drowned son to some other topic making her grief seem superficial and self indulgent and herself manipulative. She is able to cast it off when it suits her. In addition, the purchaser of the cherry orchard, the son of a servant, Yermotal Lopakhin (Trevor Fox) is played as a handsome and noble character rather than as a vulgar upstart. The future is represented by Petya Trofimov (Mark Bonnar) and Ranevskaya's daughter Anya (Jemma Powell), the latter wearing a liberated, short divided skirt and a black cap like Lenin's.
The performances are excellent. Geraldine James has great presence as Ranevskaya, one of the few of Chekhov's characters who has the ability to leave her situation and someone to go back to, in Paris. Handsome Brian Protheroe seems to have a larger presence as Gaev, her brother, here well meaning but as ineffectual to actually change anything as ever. Michael Matus as the hapless Yepikhodov, he of the squeaky shoes, provides much of the play's humour as he lurches from incompetence to near disaster. I liked Mark Bonnar's intelligent voice of the future, the eternal student and of course Trevor Martin as Firs, the elderly manservant, firmly rooted in the past who is left with no role by the change in circumstance. Dunyasha (Lucy Gaskell) the maid is very flirtatious and sexually provocative towards Yasha (Francis Lee), the manservant whose rudeness jars. Mairead McKinley is desperately disappointed as the worthy Varya when Lopahkin fails to propose to her.
Dromgoole pays less attention to sets than many. Draped garlands of white flowers are arranged in hanging rows so that the characters can snake along these corridors to give an impression of travelling a distance but ignoring the actual flowering season of the cherry trees. I do think that when the trees are being chopped down we should always be able to hear them being cut and falling. These are minor flaws, overall I enjoyed this nicely acted and stimulating production.
For links to reviews of other productions of The Cherry Orchard, and other Chekhov reviews and information, see our Chekhov Backtrounder.
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