Review: John Hannah is Uncle Vanya, St James Theatre
Review: James Graham's The Angry Brigade, Watford Palace Theatre

Review: Has the Young Vic produced a version of The Cherry Orchard I can finally appreciate?

Kate Duchene and Dominic Rowan in The Cherry Orchard, Young Vic

My two regular readers will know I have a difficult time with Chekhov and in particular The Cherry Orchard. I keep plugging away in the hope that something will click, that it will feel funny and tragic rather than a long, frustrating, philosophical whinge.

It's a slow burn, I'm starting to realise, but the Young Vic may have just ignited a couple more branches.

This version is by Simon Stephens and directed by Katie Mitchell. It's a trim 2 hours straight through and that plays its part. It feels fast paced, characters rushing across the stage - a more traditional proscenium style for the Young Vic - as if time is spinning faster towards the inevitable end.

The frenetic energy contrasts with Madame Ranevskaya (Kate Duchene) mental stasis. And it was that which played the biggest part.

Never before have I been able to connect with Ranevskaya, the lady of the house and owner of the Cherry Orchard. She has always seemed a bit too silly and ridiculous. I've wanted to yell at her 'just sell the bloody Cherry Orchard'. Lopakhin (Dominic Rowan) does actually yell at her to do just that which was a satisfying moment. It made me smile.

But what Duchene brings to the character is more subtle and multi-layered. I felt her grief for her dead son, the betrayal of previous lovers who have taken advantage, there was even a glimpse of fear for her situation. I felt the tragedy of her character for the first time; the Cherry Orchard a more potent symbol of beauty and happiness from her past.

The achievement of the performance was all the more admirable for standing out against the eccentricities and often farcical behaviour of the rest of the household. Mitchell has made them all individually bonkers. At times it feels like a house of crazies.

Gayev's (Angus Wright) mutterings of billiard shots are a tic,  the brusk governess Charlotta (Sarah Malin) chases men and walks naked across the stage and Yasha (Tom Motherdale) the manservant was nothing but nasty.  He reminded me of the baddie butler in Downtown Abbey.

It wasn't all satisfactory. The non-proposal felt a little too indifferent amid all the haste and the abandonment of Firs lacked its usual poignant impact. Mitchell plays her actors side on to the audience in the main which denied us the chance to fully appreciate the lovely looking Dominic Rowan, so a brownie point off for that.

The Cherry Orchard isn't about to leap into my list of favourite plays but I'm finally seeing its merits  I'm finally engaging with it in an more appreciative way. As I've written before I know its not the play it is me but I'm learning.

You can catch it at the Young Vic until 29 November and it is 2 hours without an interval.


Easy peasy one this Mr W has been in two Katie Mitchel productions: The Seagull (which I didn't see) and ...some trace of her (which I did).