Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov, May 22, 2012 ***
By Anton Chekhov, Hotwire Productions At 45downstairs, 16 May to 3 June, 2012 Reviewed by: Kate Herbert May 22, 2012 Stars: ***
ANTON CHEKHOV'S UNCLE VANYA is full of 21st century issues: depression, ageing, job loss,
unhappy marriages, unrequited love and the decimation of forests.
Despite being written
over 100 years ago, it resonates with our modern world and is distinctively
Russian with its blend of melancholy and clownish comedy.
production explores the ‘scenes from country life’ that epitomise Chekhov’s
revolutionary style that evolved in tandem with Stanislavski’s method of
naturalistic acting and, much later, spawned American Method Acting.
The sprawling design
(Mattea Davies) provides a panoramic view of Serebryakov’s (Peter Finlay)
country estate, and Strangio allows us to observe offstage characters idling in
their rooms and the servant, Yefim (Tom McCathie), prowling the corners.
Finlay is masterly as the
domineering, egotistical, hypochondriacal, old professor, Serebryakov, with his
velvety vocal tones and powerful physicality making his entrances riveting.
Louise O’Dwyer as Yelena
Richard Bligh is vivid
and compelling as Vanya, playing him almost as a manic-depressive with mood
swings and drunken playfulness alternating with tears and crazed rants.
Bruce Woolley’s depiction
of tree-loving Dr. Astrov is most effective when he is drunk and animated
whereas, at other times, he portrays Astrov’s ennui with almost toneless
Although Louise O’Dwyer
has some of the languorous idleness of rich, beautiful Yelena, her exotic
magnetism is lacking, and Sarah Ranken’s Sonya is more a childlike, modern,
urban girl than a simple, plain, young, country woman.
Finlay and Bligh provide
the highlight with their volatile argument between Serebryakov and Vanya that
ends with gunfire and the old man cowering under a table.
captures the languid boredom of Chekhov’s play but the exaggerated slowness and
the unevenness of the acting diminish its impact.