The Bridge Project. What’s that all about then?* It’s an unprecedented three-year, transatlantic partnership uniting The Old Vic with Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Neal Street Productions which turns out not to be where Andrew buys his cheese, as he thought, but director Sam Mendes‘ production company (Shrek the Musical etc).
What it really means is we get to see cheese and chalk Simon Russell Beale and Ethan Hawke on stage together Tom Stoppard‘s new adaptation of Ibsen’s The Cherry Orchard (they’re also doing The Winter’s Tale but one unprecedented transatlantic production is enough for the Whingers).
It’s been a while since the Whingers had an outing. And even this one was actually almost a week ago (last Tuesday to be precise). Where does the time go? Another three weeks and the nights will start drawing in.
Anyway we were very fortunate to be graced with the company of Simon Russell Beale’s number one fan Simone who had been mentioned in an interview with Simon Russell Beale in The Times just days before. Andrew had meant to bring the article along for everyone to read but in his haste had picked up instead a fascinating piece about Lesley Garrett’s financial affairs that he had cut out for future reference.
Anyway, a week ago. What happened? Well, it’s Chekhov, so we don’t need to remember what it was about. The usual. Quite why Mister Checkhov needed so many characters to portray the death of a not very sympathetic social class (again) is beyond us. It was very difficult to grasp who all the people are at the time and quite impossible to recall now.
It’s quite long (2 hours 40) and it’s gloomily and erratically lit. This much we remember. That and the high pitched whine which convinced Phil that his hearing aid was on the blink or that he was finally hearing The Hum but turned out to be music played on an aluminium harp in a stage side box
Oh, yes and it was nice to see the Old Vic back out like a proper theatre again after its foray into theatre-in-the-round. The seats are impeccably oiled too which was just as well as there’s a bit of business in the play with some squeaky shoes which would have been completely lost in the Old Vic of old.
We’re always slightly at sea when it comes to new adaptations of translations, not having memories good enough to recall what’s original and what’s new but we’re pretty certain that the fellatio is Mister Stoppard’s insertion. And what about that line: “People shouldn’t go to plays. They should look in a mirror”? Whoever wrote that has clearly never seen Phil.
It must have been a very competent production because despite Andrew longing for the sound of chain saws during the interval, the Whingers returned for the second half far which turned out to be far more engaging than the first. But most of Phil’s excitement came from seeing – for the second time in a week – someone produce a vegetable from their pocket and eat it.
We recall that the mix of American and British dialects did seem a little odd at first though although the Whingers (who aren’t the most adaptable of people) did eventually got used to it, perhaps because of the major distraction in the form of the accent of Selina Cadell‘s governess Charlotta which became a subject of intense interval debate. Was she French or German? It was hard to tell but the party plumped for German in the end though it was a close call. At least she did a bit of stage magic though this might have been improved with some tuition from stage magic maestro Paul Kieve.
Sinead Cusack, Paul Jesson, Richard Easton and Rebecca Hall as Ranevskaya, Gaev, Firs and Varya repectively were also – as you’d expect – rather good. Ethan Hawke is fine too although most of the Whingers’ party assumed Tobias Segal was actually Hawke when he first came on stage. So much for star power.
As for Russell Beale… Well, with his number one fan in their party, what else could the Whingers say? He was top notch of course. With the potential wrath of Simone dangling over them, we could hardly say otherwise.
And that’s about all we can remember about it now.
* Took us ages to track it down:
- The Bridge Project was set up in 1985 by a small group of local women in Washington, Tyne & Wear offering courses in Motor Vehicle Repair, Electrics, Woodwork, Welding and many more.
- The Bridge Project is a campaign to save Rochester’s Hojack Swing Bridge
- The Bridge Project is a charity to assist disadvantaged adults within the market town of Sudbury, Suffolk.
- etc etc