Wednesday, August 03, 2016



Chichester Festival Theatre at the Olivier, National Theatre


These three early plays, performed in repertory last year in Chichester, transfer triumphantly to the even vaster arena of the Olivier.
David Hare's brilliant adaptations – Platonov (1880), Ivanov (1887), The Seagull (1897) are directed by Jonathan Kent, whose excellent Gypsy also travelled up from Sussex last year.
This was the first of the all-day Chekhov-fests.
On variations of the original watery set, some breathtaking performances, notably James McArdle, who takes two major roles. He's Platonov, the charismatic “misogyny on wheels“, who can't help attracting women – not unlike Ayckbourn's librarian Norman. A virtuousic performance, with impeccable comic timing. Hamlet is referenced in all three plays, and McArdle handles the soliloquies skilfully, as do many of his fellow performers. He's also Doctor Lvov in Ivanov, forever sanctimoniously pointing out the flaws in the title character – played here by Geoffrey Streatfield, Sam West being committed to the Coward tour.
Most of the other Chichester actors are in place, including Olivia Vinall, outstanding as Sasha and as Nina to Joshua James's Konstantin, fervent evangelist for the “new theatre” in The Seagull. His old-school diva of a mother is inimitably brought to life by Anna Chancellor. Nina Sosanya is Anna Petrovna for Platonov and, touchingly, Ivanov's Jewish wife.
Just the lake and the horizon” - the setting for Konstantin's drama and for ours - wonderfully atmospheric, with interiors rising from the decking.
It rains through the last act of the Seagull. Otherwise, the oppressive heat is a leitmotiv, as is the unfortunate availability of vodka and firearms.
A deserved transfer for this illuminating collection, showing just how Chekhov honed his dramatic art.

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