Review: The Cherry Orchard - An innovative deconstruction of Chekhov - with funky dancing
The Cherry Orchard O'Reilly Theatre
Published 09/10/2015 | 07:00
When have you seen an invigorating funk dance sequence in a Chekhov play? Or a levitating book? Not forgetting a floating girl carried by a handful of balloons? Yes, there are gimmicks in this new production of 'The Cherry Orchard', but they are all well considered and meaningful. Often they are fun too, and you don't see enough of that in Chekhov.
Flemish company tg Stan present the world premiere of its English-language interpretation of 'The Cherry Orchard'. And they're having a ball. Created by the cast themselves, this is an innovative deconstruction of Chekhov that never loses sight of his powerful themes. It manages to be both irreverent and reverent at the same time.
Chekhov's final play takes place on a crumbling country estate that contains the eponymous orchard. After a stay in Paris, the owner, Lyuba, has returned with her family as the estate is being auctioned off to repay huge debts. But everyone is willfully refusing to accept this. What is worse is that they are presented with a way to save everything but they refuse to face that too.
Lyuba's connection to her estate is acute, her young son died here. But her extreme passion amounts to inertia, and procrastination is everyone's downfall, along with the upper-class sense of entitlement, the unspoken belief that they deserve this land so it will never be taken from them.
Chekhov intended this to be a comedy and there is much humour in this production, sarcasm and even slapstick. Yet this is indeed one of the great tragedies and that tragic core is well mined here, leaving you with an unexpected sense of the profound and the human.
The set by Damiaan De Schrijver is wonderfully malleable. Screens of smudged windowpanes, mismatched chairs, rows of Venetian blinds, a beautiful back wall tapestry - everything is manipulated by the cast to add something more.
The ensemble cast of 10 may appear ramshackle but theirs is a tightly choreographed and very clever chaos.
The standout performance is by Russian actress Evgenia Brendes as Lyuba's adopted daughter Varya. It somehow surprises how such emotional involvement creeps up on you, how much you want her heart not to be quietly broken.