In the programme ‘Welcome’ page the audience is told “If you know The Cherry Orchard already, you can expect its themes to be freshly revealed by a theatre-maker maker who combines heart-stopping truth with dazzling invention” and this pretty much sums up this theatrical experience opening the ‘Year of Change’ at Bristol Old Vic.
Former RSC Artistic Director Michael Boyd has seized Chekov’s final classic, with an exceptional and captivating translation by Rory Mullarkey, to create a 5-star experience for the theatre goer.
Finding the equilibrium in this tragicomedy will always be a challenge, but there is no doubt this ensemble, under excellent direction, have truly ‘got it right’.
Clever, inventive staging in the round serves well to establish the boundaries of Ranyevskaya’s (Kirtsy Bushell) soon to be auctioned estate and cocoon the characters in their individual drama and tensions. The revolving stage centre echoes the continuous state of change confronted by every character as they face impending auction of the estate to pay family debts, and the ultimate fate of the Cherry Orchard.
Despite some early reservations in Act 1 of a slightly overplayed opening (nervous energy perhaps), Jude Owusu as Lopakhin goes on to deliver an assured performance of a man enjoying new wealth and purpose. Ranyevskaya, the object of his unspoken love, is finely captured by Bushell who effortlessly portrays the complexities of a woman in mourning – for her husband, young son, the life she knows and eventually for her beloved Cherry Orchard.
Enyi Okoronkwo delivers a truly exquisite performance as the ‘perpetual student’ Trofimov, personifying the passion and determination of early 20th century Russian political discourse. And a well-deserved note to Simon Coates as at Gayev, whose wily delivery of this vibrant translation created excellent moments of comedy.
There can be little doubt this company has created a play worth of a 5-star rating which opens new doors for established Chekov fans and creates a spectacular introduction for new comers.