Thursday, April 05, 2012

The second play this season for Shakespeare At The Tobacco Factory is in fact by Chekhov: as the programme notes aptly point out, both dramatists 'reach out to universal truths about the human condition.' The Cherry Orchard has similar themes to King Lear - times of turmoil and intrigue, a dynasty lost through tragic folly - but Chekhov saw his play as a comedy, and Andrew Hilton's wonderfully variedly-paced direction together with immaculate performances ensured plenty of laugh-aloud moments as well as full appreciation of the script's droll wit. I can't praise the acting enough, especially Simon Armstrong as upwardly mobile Lopakhin, Julia Hills as beautiful ruined Mme Ranevskaya, and Benjamin O'Mahony as the idealist Trofimov. Harriet de Winton's evocative costumes are delicious, and both set & lighting support every mood - never more so than at the end when every tragic inevitability comes together with the perfection of a Cartier-Bresson 'decisive moment' as dusk falls.
It's a fantastic script of course but a complex and multipeopled one, and this production superbly shows not just the light and shade of the story but the subtle and intense interactions between all these interdependent individuals... and thus between us all. There was a moment when Trofimov was holding forth on political change and the rapt attention from his own milieu extended into the auditorium in an extraordinary point of connection as we too processed his grand concepts through our own experiences and beliefs, his luminous words profoundly timeless as well as touchingly poignant. It was a transcendent moment in a dazzling production. If you only see one play this year, make it The Cherry Orchard at the Tobacco Factory.
image: Farrows Creative.

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