Reviewed by Regina Su
Based on the play by Anton Chekov, “The Cherry Orchard” is brought to life at the New Theatre. Under direction from Clemence Williams, the production uses David Mamet’s rhythmic stage play to explore the complexities of the human condition. We are presented with a cast of characters who have such strong needs and desires, and yet, their unquenchable thirst remains unfulfilled.
Chekov can be very difficult material to work with, and yet the New Theatre made this tale accessible. The stage, being three levels into the living room of a country house, was expertly designed to draw us into their domestic sphere. The audience is invited to be a part of their menial existence, and in doing so, we identify with the characters; their loves and losses. The set managed to put everything in context, so Chekov became a story of human emotion and tension. The complexities of life's mysteries and frustrations then became our own, as I for one forgot I was watching a play, and began immersing in the trivialities before me.
The production added an interesting element to the tale; the live music created by ambient guitar and atonal vocals seemed like an experiment in synergy and pacing. I found the music was an effective addition to the immersive experience, as the tale took on a dreamlike surreal quality. My partner, however found the vocals to be distracting at times. I think there was a good effort made to achieve a balance between the tension of the story and the creation of atmosphere. The music was able to remove me from the story in order to immerse in the production.
As well as through music, the play creates a certain energy through the physicality of the actors. At times, the characters were reminiscent of Russian clowns, and at other times, the characters were realistic and natural images of ourselves. Both types of characters challenged the audience to an introspective reflection about their relationships with each other. The ensemble is stellar in their command of the stage, particularly Cecilia Morrow’s portrayal of Dunyasha, and Nicholas Papdemetriou’s portrayal of Firs. Traditionally clown parts, these characters added added extra dimension and whimsical flavour to an already complex tale.
I really enjoyed this production from the New Theatre. It was thought provoking and beautiful, with an abruptly absurd ending. Go to get lost in a Russian winter.
Photos by Bob Seary