Review: Fortune’s Fool, by Ivan Turgenev, at the Old Vic theatre

Alexander Vlahos (Pavel), Richard McCabe (Tropatchov), Richard Henders (Karpatchov), Iain Glen (Kuzovkin).  Photo Sheila Burnett

Alexander Vlahos (Pavel), Richard McCabe (Tropatchov), Richard Henders (Karpatchov), Iain Glen (Kuzovkin). Photo Sheila Burnett

When it comes to scenes that upset and enrage me, nothing comes close to bullying. With Mike Bartlett’s Bull, I thought I had the winner for most disturbing scene of the year. But Fortune’s Fool, written almost 200 years ago, proves stiff competition. At the Old Vic website, Ivan Turgenev’s play, adapted by Mike Poulton, is described as “savagely funny”. I am not sure it is. It’s more interesting than that.

A country estate in rural Russia prepares for the arrival of a newlywed couple, the mistress of the house and her husband. As servants are busy, Kuzovkin is not. A gentleman fallen on hard times, he lives in the house out of charity. The arrival of the couple and a visit by Tropatchov, a wealthy neighbour with an agenda of his own, reveal secrets, cruelty and empty aspirations.  If it wasn’t 19th century Russia, it could have been start of the 21st century anywhere in the world. Continue reading