Uncle Vanya at Old Red Lion Theatre
Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya arrives at Old Red Lion Theatre not with a bang but with a whimper.
A family and romantic drama that becomes toxic and explosive. Serebryakov and his wife Yelena have come from town to stay on the country estate run by his daughter Sonya and ex-brother-in-law Vanya. But country life does not agree with Serebryakov while Serebryakov does not agree with Vanya. Add to that some instances of unrequited love and you have Uncle Vanya.
Uncle Vanya is certainly one of Anton Chekhov’s most major works for a reason. It’s dark and gripping and full of the most wonderful lines. And the words of the visiting doctor Astrov regarding deforestation are both interesting, for being one of the very first ever literary discussions of ecological destruction, and even more important today.
This particular production feels slow to get off the ground with the first half seeming confused as to what story it wants to tell. Some scenes are rushed while others are drawn out, some seem unnecessary altogether while others seem to be missing. But it does find its feet after the interval.
The cast are clearly a talented bunch and show flashes of brilliance here and there. But they feel stiff as they deal with the over direction of their roles, throwing their arms up where a subtle flick of the hand is needed or jumping when they merely need to stand. They showcase not so much their range but an on-off switch, with the characters going from 0 to 60 and back again in an instant.
That’s not to say there aren’t redeeming features of this play. There are, and those features are called Jonathon George (who plays Vanya) and Faye Bennet (Sonya) whose performances are a cool, fresh breeze in the stuffy air upstairs at the Old Red Lion Theatre. These two feel far more comfortable in their roles, delivering them with a more subtlety and natural finesse. It is no wonder that every laugh, every pang of sadness, every shock is courtesy of one of these two actors.
This Uncle Vanya is a little bit of a wet blanket. The costumes work, the set is nice, the lighting simple but effective. It’s certainly a well put-together production. But the direction feels a bit too awkward. Though possibly worth watching for George and Bennet alone.
Photos: Hansof Waller
Uncle Vanya is at Old Red Lion Theatre from 3rd May until 14th May 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.