Review: “The Cherry Orchard” by Anton Chekhov – Melbourne Theatre Company

The Cherry Orchard is one of Chekhov’s famous plays. Thats a good opening sentence for a review. Spell out the literal meaning of the title.

I had never seen or read this play and my only other experience with Chekhov was Sydney Theatre Company’s production of “Uncle Vanya” which I struggled to concentrate in. But I think that was more to do with the minties I had stuck in my teeth. In Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of “The Cherry Orchard”, I chose not to not eat minties, so was hooked from the beginning. A clever mix of comic timing and strong performances.

Director Simon Stone has adapted the classic Russian playwright’s work into the modern tongue, yet has stuck to the original quite closely (well so I have heard, since I won’t pretend to have 100 pages of scribbled notes on the original).  Such an amusing fella, that Chekhov. A  rich family of Russians all come together as their estate is up for auction due to the debts they owe. What makes up most of the estate, is the Cherry Orchard, hence the name. They sit around reflecting and also thinking about the future, what is to become of their heritage. It is considered both a tragedy and a comedy and I feel in this version, both styes were harmonised (professional choir harmony, not school choir harmony).

Standout performance for me, was the Maid (Dunyasha), played by Nikki Shiels. Shiels brought a life into the character that I don’t see that often. Though the Matriarch of the family (Andreyevna) grew on me, played by Pamela Rabe, as the sad and lost soul that she was.

I will admit I was confused at what time period it was set in. I assumed from the beginning it was present day with everyone choosing to be rich hipsters. Only did it click in my mind during Act Four “Winter” that it was set in the 1970s, as I had not seen anyone use a single electronic device other than a giant walkie talkie and an overhead projector. But hey, I was an audience member interpreting it how I chose. And it seemed to work in my head as a wealthy family who opted to wear op shop clothing, along with a butler that was literally 120 years old.

No doubt this season will sell well, so check it out! Playing at the Sumner at the Southbank Theatre, Melbourne from 10 August to 25 September 2013. Get your tickets here.

MTC Cherry Orchard

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