Tucked on the side of the impressive New Wimbledon Theatre is a studio, a space for those looking for something a little different; and this adaptation of The Cherry Orchard is just that. The play was first performed in 1904 and originally set in Anton Chekhov’s native Russia. This adaptation by Patrick Kennedy bravely transports the story in time and space to Britain in 1976.
The attention to detail is impressive; costumes, set and style are exceptional, and for the most part it works. The cast seem to enjoy the play and this combined with the hippy, boho decadence of the decade makes it a lot of fun. The references to servitude are a little out of context with the era, but the age old story of ‘boy done good’ is a timeless feel-good factor – although in this scenario, the good feeling is at the expenses of close friends.
Chekhov is a master at writing about family life. He has an amazing ability to show individual, unique characters living their own stories whilst contributing to form a bonded, if not fractious, unit. The Cherry Orchard is a fine example of this as a family copes with death, separation and love in its many forms; burgeoning, unrequited and every kind related to family and friendship. The story is a joy as we experience this dysfunctional brood in financial hardship. As they face losing their ancestral home, each are more concerned with their own personal troubles – whilst the son of a former servant advises and frantically tries to save it and them.
The 70s are a perfect setting for the family in denial, losing themselves in every distraction available. Janet Lurie-Dawe plays the flaky matriarchal lead with adorable fun and flamboyance; you can see how hard it would be to be mad at her for frittering away the inheritance, and Alma Costa continues the theme of goofy eccentricity with an entertaining, if not a tad confusing part. The play is boozy and tearful, amusing and heartbreaking with the characters, for the most, verging on the edge of crazy. There is a counterbalance of the more sensible but these are not enough to save the day. Ben Woodhall is exceptional as eternal student ‘Peter’; a commentator on the political aspects of the times and situation, a dreamy romantic hero, a reminder of a tragic past and a hope for the future, all rolled into one. And ‘Lyle’ (Andrew Venning) is endearing as the awkward, almost apologetically successful former servant and saviour. Although we don’t get a happy ending, it is clear to see that is the only ending there could have been.
This is a bold production and one that the cast fully embrace. Stephanie Hampton and Patrick Kennedy have a unique vision of this classic piece, and it is easy to get caught up in their enthusiasm.
Review by Rachel Borland
The Cherry Orchard
Directed and adapted by Patrick Kennedy
Produced by Stephanie Hampton and Patrick Kennedy for PK Productions
Janet Lurie-Dawe plays Ruby
Anthony Searjant plays Leonard
Robert Rowe plays Firs
Andrew Venning plays Lyle
Stephanie Hampton plays Barbara
Sarah Lambie plays Anna
Alma Costa plays Charlotte
Michael Radford plays Jacob
Niccolò Curradi plays Boris
Matthew Durkan plays Simon
Alyssa Noble plays Jackie
Ben Woodhall plays Peter
Jack Sharman plays Ensemble
PK Productions present the World Premiere of The Cherry Orchard, adapted and directed by Patrick Kennedy, and based on the play by Anton Chekhov. 3rd to 8th November 2014 at New Wimbledon Studio
PK Productions (Up From Paradise, Doctor Selavy’s Magic Theatre, Celebrating Silverman, Halbwelt Kultur) return to the New Wimbledon Studio with a radical new adaptation of Antony Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard from 3rd-8th November.
This new adaptation by director Patrick Kennedy sets the action in Britain, 1976. Ruby Ranevsky arrives back at the dilapidated family estate searching for sanctuary away from an unsuccessful love affair in tourist hotspot Valletta only to face the prospect of losing it all due to impending bankruptcy.
But good fortune is around the corner. The family’s grocer’s son, now a successful property developer in the burgeoning property market, has a crafty plan to rescue the family’s fortunes. Can Ruby embrace the march of change, or is the nostalgia of the prosperous past too strong?
Revelling in the farcical nature of the Russian classic, The Cherry Orchard promises to be one of the company’s most exciting and daring endeavours to date.
Wednesday 5th to Saturday 8th November 2014
Running time: 2 hrs
Thursday 6th November 2014