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The Cherry Orchard at Black Box Theatre: A compassionate view of society on the verge of revolution

The Cherry Orchard

Black Box Theatre, Galway, Until March 7

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Graceful: Derbhle Crotty and Garrett Lombard in The Cherry Orchard. Photo: Robbie Jacks

Graceful: Derbhle Crotty and Garrett Lombard in The Cherry Orchard. Photo: Robbie Jacks

Graceful: Derbhle Crotty and Garrett Lombard in The Cherry Orchard. Photo: Robbie Jacks

There are three timescales relevant to this revival of Anton Chekhov's final and most poignant play.

First produced in 1904, it captured the turmoil of Russian society at the turn of the 20th century. The play depicts the rising social mobility of the serf class, only recently emancipated, and the general incompetence of the gentry.

The second timescale is the Celtic Tiger: Tom Murphy's idiomatically Irish version was first produced by the Abbey Theatre in 2004. It spoke to a burgeoning Ireland where a rising economy was offering comfort to people emerging from recession. The property bubble and ensuing mortgage crisis were about to happen.

The third timescale is the present day. Garry Hynes' Druid revival feels like a mopping up of the post-crash landscape, as this mortgage-ridden Russian family must lose their ostentatious family home to creditors.

Hynes pays particular attention to the figure of the entrepreneur, with Aaron Monaghan's Lopakhin given plenty of space. Lopakhin reminds us frequently he is the son of a serf. The gentry cannot follow his practical advice, because they are locked in a glorification of the past.

Every time he suggests they flog land to build bungalows, Ranyevskaya (Derbhle Crotty), the lady of the manor, starts mooning about her mother's ghost or her drowned son. Crotty embodies the graceful proportions of the house, like a piece of moving architecture, brimming with emotional range. Monaghan provides a pragmatic counterweight, a jumped-up Johnny with a tender heart.

Ancient retainer Firs (John Olohan), every inch the serf, resents the uncertainty prompted by his own emancipation. This character is like a living ghost.

Francis O'Connor's set is all subdued greys, low key and unostentatious, with a nod to the modernising influence of rural electrification.

Hynes directs with supreme control: impeccable pacing finds excruciating emotional depth in silences. She draws out the layers of kind-heartedness in the Murphy/Chekhov text. The production never looks for somebody to blame, just exposes all the unravelling flawed humanity.

It is out of step with our strident 2020 times, where a culprit must always be found and excoriated. Just as the original was out of step with its own time, teasing out complex emotional nuance, in a society on the threshold of a bloody revolution.

Dancing around jazz and blues

Walls Talk

Project Arts Centre, Dublin Until tonight

A multitude of ideas compete for attention in this experimental show featuring choreographer/dancer Breandán de Gallaí and singer Gina Boreham. We open with a jumble of objects in the corner of the stage, which are duly dispersed around the space in what appears to be an arbitrary fashion.

The show is a 60-minute song cycle of blues and jazz laments, each arranged in a different musical style. Some dance sequences illustrate the songs, others stand alone. There is also some prose, including by Brian Friel, JM Synge and Wendy Cope.

De Gallai's dancing is wonderfully beguiling, but there isn't quite enough of it. Boreham's voice is pitch perfect and emotionally lucid, but her stage persona is introverted.

De Gallaí himself directs for his own company Ériu. The show lacks a disciplining outsider's eye with the capacity to see its strengths and curtail its weaknesses.

The two terrific numbers are when the step dancing provides percussion to the singing, once with bare feet, the second time with tap shoes. Otherwise, the show remains a rather loose collection of puzzling fragments.

A lot of interesting creative ideas, and two strong talents on the stage, but desperately in need of a more cohesive vision.

Indo Review