Review: The Cherry Orchard


Howard Davies's National productions have served Russian drama superbly well in recent times. His sumptuous revivals of Gorky's Philistines and Bulgakov's The White Guard demonstrated a huge talent for combining intimately observed personal stories and Russia's seismic revolution. So Chekhov's classic which, as with those other productions, has been energised by Andrew Upton's daringly colloquial translation, is a logical next step.

Once again the setting is a Russia on the verge of change, sublimely ignored here by Zoë Wanamaker's debt-ridden Ranyevskaya. And this despite the best efforts of Conleth Hill's nouveau-riche Lopakhin, whose well-meaning plan to replace the eponymous orchard with holiday homes is the only way of saving the family dacha.

But the end-of-an-era desolation never touches the soul as it should. Bunny Christie's design is a half-way house of wooden interior and rural exterior. And emotionally the production feels equally uncommitted. It is hard to blame Wanamaker's fine performance for this, but there is a toughness to her Ranyevskaya that seems immune to the play's devastating nostalgia. I left admiring, but unmoved.

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