The Cherry Orchard
Anton Chekhov, translated by Hannah Polonsky, Frankie Parham,Olga Zabotkina and Megan Sullivan, adapted from their translation by Ben Weaver-Hincks and Felix Stevenson
The Cherry Orchard is not an easy production to stage.
Firstly there is heaps of symbolism; the famous ‘ominous sound’, the Cherry Orchard itself and the representations of a confused class system. Secondly it comes with its own rich performance history and is considered by many a masterpiece. Thirdly it comes with the tag of being written by Anton Chekhov, something that can often frighten modern audiences into thinking it’ll be boring.
Kronos Productions work around all these factors by updating the play and setting in in Thatcher’s Britain. This new version of the script is accessible and condenses the four-act play into an hour. The overall concept is an excellent idea but doesn't quite reach fruition. However, many of the characters translate easily into modern equivalents, particularly a designer-clad Louisa (formerly Madam Ranevskaya), and Alfie (formerly Yermolai Lopakhin) who represents the entrepreneurs of the 1980s for who the new language of power was money not class.
The amalgamation of certain other characters suits this adaptation but this impacts hugely on the ending of the show in which a great moment of poignancy is lost. Whilst the script highlights the characters moving forward, it does not fully embrace those who are left behind, unable to change with the times.
Given the young age of the cast, the characterisation is handled well. Daisy Cummins shines as Louisa and Henry Yorke manages to create a comical but still believable Uncle Leonard. Even at an hour, the pace does occasionally stall but the Chekovian pauses are still in evidence and the listlessness of the family is nicely captured.
For those not acquainted with the original, this is a good introduction to Chekhov and demonstrates why the themes that are prominent in the play make it ripe for revival. For those familiar with the original, this is an interesting production but it raises more questions than it answers. This is a young company with ambitious ideas and it will be interesting to see how those thoughts develop.
Reviewer: Amy Yorston