From Chekhov with Love is a triptych of short plays by Russian writer, Anton Chekhov comprising of The Jubilee, The Bear and The Proposal. Each one of them are a satirical farce of the civilities, manners, gender and class of Russian society of the late 19th century.
Chekhov’s writing is witty and clever and he is great with structure. What you notice about these pieces is that aside from the inherent farce and societal satire (and I might add, rampant misogyny) is that they each build inexorably toward a big ending - the theatrical equivalent of a punchline. This production, by newly found Steam Productions manages to pull together all the elements of farce and make them genuinely enjoyable.
The characters, as you might expect with farce, are archetypes. This, however, lends itself to some hugely amusing performances. Gavin Williams’ blustering and puffing Grigory Stepanovitch Smirnov and Sylvia Keays’ vampy widow Elena Ivanovna Popova are a delight to watch. Ditto Lynden Jones and Laura Turner. The beauty of the performances of the entire cast across all three pieces is the way in which they all manage to hit this middle ground of achieving the heightened nature of archetypal characters and finding a truth within them that makes them convincing.
Jerome Pride and Gavin Williams direction ought to be mentioned as well. It is often with farces and comedy of manners that they can tend to look like antiques that perhaps should be shelved rather than performed but I didn’t feel that with From Chekhov. They both managed to make the pieces accessible to a modern audience and keep true to the style of Chekhov’s writing. Linking the three pieces together was clever as the cast moved set pieces around in character, it was simple but effective theatre making. All while making good use of the rectangular and tricky space of the Newtown Theatre.
In all, From Chekhov with Love presents three well written and well realised pieces of theatre and a high standard of theatre making by all involved. Chek it out.
Steam Productions presents
From Chekhov with Love
Venue: Newtown Theatre | Cnr King & Bray Sts, Newtown South
Dates: 13 August - 4 September 2010 (Wed - Sat) at 8pm
Tickets: $28 Full, $22 Concession, (2 for 1 Wed available at the door), $14 Preview
Bookings: 02 8507 3034 or www.newtowntheatre.com.au
More Information: www.steamproductions.com.au