Now I’m pretty sure Chekhov never had Mary Hopkin in mind when he wrote this comic-tragedy/tragic-comedy, but you know, somehow it worked! This was a very different play to the one I expected, courtesy of the wonderfully talented Blackeyed Theatre and adapted by Bart Lee (see link for the tour dates). Chekhov, I thought, would not really be My Thing; much too high-brow. I’ve since changed my mind and will be visiting a library near me soon.
Pleasantly surprised at the pace and ingenuity, this opened my eyes to what could be achieved with just four actors playing over a dozen parts between them. Comedy and music combined for a thoroughly enjoyable evening, with none of the power and emotion of the original play lost - even with lines such as “Do I look fat in this?” which I doubt was in the original! Uttered by Dunyasha, the chambermaid, who, with the other servants are given much greater scope in this production, their new found voices and vaudeville pieces were a delight, particularly the song including “My mother wanted me to marry number six; but he had diseases and a mouldy …” cue uproarious laughter! From me, anyway. Oh, give over - from everyone. We were in Chatham, for goodness sake!
Drawn on many of the issues affecting Chekhov himself, growing up during Russia’s social upheaval, The Cherry Orchard was first performed in 1904. Director Constantin Stanislavski interpreted the play as a drama against Chekhov’s wishes - the writer subtitled his play ‘A Comedy in Four Acts.’ He’d have taken great pleasure from this interpretation.