Review – The Cherry Orchard, Old Vic

Monday 1 June 2009

the bridge projectThe 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

12 Responses to “Review – The Cherry Orchard, Old Vic”

  1. […] 3 Here’s the much awaited West End Whingers take on this play, and to sincerely say that I found their review much amusing. Cheers Andrew & Phil! […]

  2. shewithheofonstagexanadu Says:

    Either I have more sensitive hearing than you, or you were concentrating too hard on the play to notice the squeaking seat in the front row. Admittedly I was just that little bit closer to it than you but none the less was surprised that you didn’t notice, or perhaps you thought it was part of the “sound design”. I had also been at the first preview of this and noticed a VERY audible squeak from the very same seat that Phil/Andrew – (sorry but I still can’t tell the difference) was sitting in on Tues, so either it had been oiled over the weekend or congratulations on not being such a fidget as the previous occupant.

  3. JohnnyFox Says:

    Thanks for the link to the Lesley Garrett financial page. Despite Oscar Wilde’s remark that ‘three addresses always inspire confidence, even in tradespeople’ she doesn’t garner mine.

    I appreciate the licence to call her ‘former nude model’ and ‘dragged home on a potato lorry’ but am sad she omitted the story in which, when virtually destitute and unable to break in to the opera scene, she allegedly sold her house, moved in with her parents, and gave the money to Max Clifford to ‘make her a star’.

    She really should ask for it back.

  4. Sir Andrew Lloyds Credit-Crunch Says:

    Me, I’m now looking forward to Chekhov’s Hedda Gabler. Is it true that Lesley Garrett has condescended to appear in the curtain call, for an extra appearance fee, a la Rita Webb in the 70s Morecambe & Wise shows?

  5. Jarlath Says:

    I’m amazed you chaps haven’t mentioned who Richard Easton is?

    It’s Brian from The Brothers. Don’t you remember The Brothers – the best tv drama of the 70s. He was the much put upon good son, nagged by matriarch Jean Anderson and married to the shrew’ish fabulous Hilary Tindall.

    He’s been in New York for about 30 years and I saw him on Broadway yonks ago in Shadowlands.

    Thanks for the Lesley Garrett financial strip search. A woman who will tell you how much is in her purse would tell one anything.

  6. shewithheofonstagexanadu Says:

    I’m afraid I missed the Brothers (had to sit through The World About Us on BBC 2) but I do remember Richard Easton as Camillo in Terry Hand’s Winter’s Tale of 1986, with Jeremy Irons as Leontes and a young SRB as young sheperd.

  7. Sue Stapely Says:

    I worked on the production team of the Brothers decades ago and am looking forward to seeing Brian give his Chekov tonight.

  8. […] very classy production knocks into a cocked hat that slightly underbaked and stodgy one that the Mrs Bridges’ Project turned out a few years ago. It helps that director Howard Davies has cunningly planted some of the […]

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