Uncle Vanya – April 2012

7/10

By Anton Chekov, translated by Michael Frayn

Directed by Jeremy Herrin

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Thursday 26th April 2012

Although the main performances had come on from our earlier visit, I found I didn’t get much more enjoyment out of the evening, as this version focused more on the period specifics rather than the wider issues. I was more aware of the Russian background to the piece and less about the people and their relevance to our times, although the environmental concerns were are topical as ever. Still, it’s a good production, and deserves to get a transfer if they can work out the details.

Yelena’s performance was probably the most changed from last time. I’d felt before that Lara Pulver wasn’t sufficiently glamorous in the role; not so tonight. She drifted languorously across the stage, fully justifying Vanya’s descriptions of her, and I couldn’t decide whether her sexual posturing was completely unconscious on her part, or whether she was doing some of it deliberately. Her relationship with Sonya was much clearer tonight – they were similar in age, and became almost sisters as they shared their feelings and girlish laughter. I was better able to ignore Dervla Kirwan’s good looks tonight, which made it easier to relate to Sonya’s situation.

The age differences came out strongly all round tonight, with the professor looking much the same age as his mother-in-law. Timothy West had his lines pat this time, which helped to make the third act in the drawing room even stronger. Maggie Steed had also developed her part as the mother-in-law, and her early exchanges with Vanya became a lot clearer as a result. Even when edging round the room to find a suitable location to sit and read her pamphlets, she was a strong presence on stage.

Alexander Hanson delivered his lines much more clearly as the doctor, and his character naturally seemed better defined as a result. Roger Allam presumably made some changes in his performance, but I didn’t notice any specifics; I felt he gave such a strong performance first time round that there wasn’t so much left to work on. Anthony O’Donnell and Maggie McCarthy were equally as good as Telegin and Marina respectively. Nothing else had changed in the staging that I could spot, and the scene changes were as long as before.

I still felt there wasn’t anything new in the play for me, but this time I did reckon the characters were connecting a bit with each other. The scene where the doctor explained his maps to Yelena worked particularly well; the air between them was alive with sexual attraction and frustration in about equal measure. There was a strong sense of order being restored at the end with the departure of the interlopers, even if Vanya and Sonya had a lot to grieve over. A good start to this year’s Festival season at Chichester.

© 2012 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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