Classical Music

Ruth Leon’s Performances to knock your socks off


Uncle Vanya – Toby Jones

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There is so much to see in this new, well, new-ish adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s  Uncle Vanya, one of my favourite plays. As in all of Chekhov, everybody is in love. Sadly, they’re each in love with the wrong person. This makes them all miserable in different and, to me, fascinating ways.

Several major playwrights have made contemporary adaptations of Chekhov’s Russian original for the English stage and each one has brought something new and revelatory. This adaptation, by the Irish playwright Conor McPherson,   finds all the humour and internal rhythm that Chekhov wrote into his characters and almost succeeds in making the play into the comedy that Chekhov insisted it was without losing a whit of its drama and pathos. Here in this ramshackle country house you will meet a group of people who, while bound together by unbreakable ties of family, convention and habit, are constitutionally unsuited to being together.

As the title character Toby Jones,   perfect casting if ever there was, leads a dynamic ensemble in Ian Rickson’s exquisite production. With one exception, every actor in this accomplished and memorable cast would seem to have had their role written just for them. I’ll leave it to you to decide which one, I believe, is miscast.

Briefly, and just to get you started, Uncle Vanya and his niece, Sonya, are stuck in a cycle of duty and boredom, maintaining their family’s crumbling estate. Their world is turned upside down when Sonya’s father shows up with a new wife – forcing the family to look at long-hidden truths and hope for a different future.

Filmed live in London’s West End, this five-star production poses big questions about the power of the truth and the beauty of life. The cast includes Roger Allam (Serebryakov), Richard Armitage (Astrov), Anna Calder-Marshall (Nana), Rosalind Eleazar (Yelena), Dearbhla Molloy (Mariya), Peter Wight (Telegin) and Aimee Lou Wood (Sonya).

I saw this production twice live in the theatre and I have since watched it twice online, each time finding in Chekhov’s masterpiece more hidden details of thought and action than I had ever noticed before.

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