Patrick Marber is all over London's theatre scene this year. We've had a revival of Closer at the Donmar, new play The Red Lion at the National's Dorfman and now his version of Turgenev's comedy A Month in the Country, re-imagined as Three Days in the Country [insert austerity joke here].
The three plays can all be linked thematically through their exploration of love, in fact on reflection Closer feels like a contemporary twist on Three Days - but without the humour and the charming characters.
This adaptation keeps the setting as a grand estate in 19th Century rural Russia. Natalya (Amanda Drew) is bored with married life and calls her long time admirer Rakitin (John Simm) to visit. While toying with him she falls in love with her son's handsome young tutor Belyaev (Royce Pierreson). He has also attracted the attention of Natalya's ward Vera (Lily Sacofsky) but his love lies elsewhere.
Vera meanwhile has got the attention of an old, rich neighbour who has never married. The family's doctor Shpigelsky (Mark Gatiss) tries to help him woo her while attempting to arrange a marriage for himself.
Marber's script, like the various pieces of fruit being eaten during the performance, is juicy and ripe with witty lines. Simm and Gatiss prove masters of comic timing and the latter will surely be up for a couple of StOliver awards at the end of the year.
In the end its quiet genius is the way in which the play exposes how ridiculous, fickle and irrational love makes us and has us laughing at it. It's almost cruel if you think about it.
Three Days In The Country is by far my favourite 'Marber' this year it's very well done and great fun. You can catch it in rep on the National Theatre's Lyttleton stage until Oct 21. It's two hours and 15 minutes including an interval.
Several but I'm going for Mark Gatiss who was in Sherlock with Andrew Scott.