Review: The Cherry Orchard, by Anton Chekhov – in a new version by Simon Stephens, at the Young Vic Theatre

Kate Duchene as Lyubov Ranevskaya, Dominic Rowan as Alexander. Photo Stephen Cummiskey

Kate Duchene as Lyubov Ranevskaya, Dominic Rowan as Alexander. Photo Stephen Cummiskey

You wait ages for one Chekhov and two arrive in less than a week. I was disappointed by Uncle Vanya at St James Theatre, which made the anticipation of The Cherry Orchard a tense affair: I don’t like not liking Chekhov. It’s almost hurtful. It doesn’t make sense. The meaning of life comes into question. Fortunately, the Young Vic Cherry Orchard – spiky, unsentimental, insolent, respectful only of a ridiculous tender heart – comes to restore the world as it should be.

The production, directed by Katie Mitchell in a new version by Simon Stephens, crackles with elegant and thrilling contradictions: outwardly it looks traditional, with its straight-laced proscenium arch and naturalistic approach. Yet it creates a feeling of uneasiness, a punky wave of a new world. The modern setting (invoked mostly due to costumes) is established with huge confidence: suits and ties don’t demand the presence of smartphones and Ipads, letters are still sent and news (good news, bad news, terrible news) is still being delivered by messenger. The characters break out into behaviours Chekhov would have never dreamed of which only highlights their inability to break free: their behaviour is often unhinged but that gives them no insight or self-awareness. It’s an act of decompression, like a balloon losing air and spinning out of control, only to end up on the floor, shriveled and defeated.

Continue reading

All New People at the Duke of York’s theatre – Review

Zach Braff as Charlie and Paul Hilton as Myron in All New People. Photo by Alastair Muir

There is no getting away from the fact that All New People wants to be so much  more than it is (funnier, more profound, more interesting) but generally falls short of these intentions. On the other hand, there is something heroic in the effort.

Charlie is at a beach house in the middle of the winter, ready to kill himself. He is interrupted by Emma, an eccentric British real estate agent trying to rent the house, who brings along her friend Myron (an ex drama teacher turned fireman / drug dealer). At some point, Kim, a friendly escort sent to Charlie as a present, shows up and the four of them try to negotiate the rest of the evening, with Charlie determined to his course of action. Continue reading