Marlborough Dramatic Club at the Memorial Hall, Brentwood School
Michael Frayn's neat English version – Gambon its first Vanya, I believe – fits four acts into an audience-friendly couple of hours; even slicker in William Wells' production, with all the action set in the garden of Serebryakov's dacha.
The sombre mood is set before lights down – the samovar, Jean Morgan's nanna Marina knitting, Astrov reading. And at the end, the final moments of tearful optimism, as those left behind prepare to live out their wretched lives.
A compelling Vanya from Darren Hannant, his untidy idler contrasting with his smartly suited friend Dr Astrov [Gavin Leary]. Sara Thompson is the plain, unloved Sonya, her clumsy attempt at seduction one of several moving moments. The elegant Yelena, the professor's young second wife, is stylishly done by Juliette Bird. Good support from an equally stylish Margaret Corry as Vanya's mother, and Harry Morrison as the pathetic, desiccated Telegin.
This polished production has many telling moments: an impressive entrance through the audience for the “great scholar” [Keith Morgan] and his party, the carefully plotted trio that begins Act Three, the dramatic impetus sustained right through to Yelena's soliloquy, Vanya's rant, and his desperate disillusionment in a speech which he starts slumped with his back to the audience.