Review: Shrieks and scares in The Woman in Black (touring cast), Fortune Theatre and then on tour
Review: Finding sympathy for Ivanov, National Theatre #YoungChekhov

Review - Who knew Chekhov could be funny? Platonov, National Theatre #YoungChekhov

James McArdle and Nina Sosanya in Platonov

I have a feeling I've commented once before on a Chekhov play being surprisingly funny*. I'm told that the man himself thought he was funny but when I mentioned to a friend that I was seeing three Chekhov plays in a day, she commented 'make sure you've got your tissues and razor blades' which is my more usual response.

Platonov, or at least this production of it, is very funny at times, the second half even teeters on farce, and it was a great way to kick off a three-play day. I think James McArdle can take a big chunk of the credit. He plays the titular character: a disillusioned school teacher who is also a hopeless ladies man.

He is married to a woman who adores him - something he can't comprehend - but has also caught the eye of the educated, widowed landlowner Anna Petrovna (Nina Sosanya). He likes the fact that she is intelligent, something that other men see as a disadvantage. Nina's step son is married to Sofiya (Olivia Vinall), a great beauty who has also fallen for Platonov's charms and wants to run away with him.

Completing his tail of admirers is Maria Grekova (Sarah Twomey) who hates him - but really loves him. Platonov enjoys toying with her and can be quite cruel but McArdle gives the character enough charm that you can mostly forgive him. As the juggling of admirers gets more difficult to pull off he hits the bottle. It is as if he has settled down to watch his own car crash in slow motion.

He is acutely self aware and doesn't like what he sees but whether he is incapable of stopping himself or just doesn't want to is a matter of debate. On the one hand he despairs of himself while on the other he seems to enjoy his reputation and plays up to it. McArdle has impeccable comic timing and a way of delivering lines with a glorious air of self-pity that is utterly disarming.  The result is an ending that feels like the life and soul of the party has left never to return, leaving the room suddenly quiet and melancholy. 

I'm going to give Platonov five stars and if you are only able to see one of the three Young Chekhov's then this is the one I'd choose.

You can see Platonov as part of a three play day or as an individual play at the National Theatre until Oct 8. The running time is approximately two hours and 4o minutes including an interval.

* It was chuckling rather than funny.