Review by Peter McGarry

Peter McGarry is an experienced, independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to review Talisman Theatre productions.
Peter is free to express his opinions for good or ill. The Talisman Theatre has no control whatsoever over the content of these reviews and will not comment publicly on what he writes.

The Cherry Orchard (2017):
Chekhov's most poignant play is all about status and a changing social infrastructure. Written over 100 years ago, it resonates with issues and concerns that still underpin any society today.

This, along with its literary grandeur and penetrating characterisations, makes it a work that will never lack relevance for a modern audience.

Here John Dawson directs what can be seen as a contemporary version. Not modernised as a total concept, but reflecting more of an everyman interpretation. Its people, in varying garbs, are timeless in their attitudes, emotions, weaknesses and strengths.

Equally, this impressive production has to cater for the dual nature of the play - a mix of comedy and tragedy which emanates from Anton Chekhov's own wildly erratic personality traits during the lengthy writing of what was to be his final and possibly most popular theatrical endeavour.

A superbly assembled cast effectively divides the various characters into Russian aristocrats and working classes to examine the fading power of the gentry against the irresistible rise of the serfs. In reality, revolution was not far away and the prescient nature of the piece is ultimately startling.

The central figure, Lyubov, is a woman returning to her ancestral home to escape from a broken relationship and the death of her child. Julie-Ann Randell essays the part with a vitality that encompasses a defensive over-brightness and its subsequent despair. A fine performance indeed.

Around her is a wealth of observant playing, notably from Molly Ives and Leigh Walker as her contrasting daughters, one spirited and optimistic, the other moody and repressed, and Colin Ritchie as a bombastic former land worker savouring his new accession to power.

There is no weak link in any quarter and even if the true period mood of the Chekhov original does feel somewhat diluted by this version, John Ellam's atmospheric set design cleverly bridges the time factor.

This is a triumph for the Talisman.



2016 Talisman Theatre