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.

Laurence Strangio’s 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 numbness.

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.

Strangio’s production captures the languid boredom of Chekhov’s play but the exaggerated slowness and the unevenness of the acting diminish its impact.

By Kate Herbert

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