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A Month in the Country, Theatro Technis

Ivan Turgenev
Directed by Gavin McAlinden
★★★

Pros: An interesting and entertaining story performed by an energetic and well-balanced ensemble.

Cons: The lengthy Russian classic suffered some dull ruts.

Our Verdict: An enjoyable and refreshingly simple period piece that succeeds despite some dragging.

Courtesy of Theatro Technis

The Acting Gymnasium allows actors to explore classic works by writers such as Turgenev and Chekhov among others, and their current production at the Theatro Technis is Turgenev’s dramatic comedy, A Month in the Country. If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, the intrigue of cross-class romances in the 20th century will be right up your street. The script concerns itself with the romances and heartbreaks which run rampant among the inhabitants of a manor home in the Russian countryside, and succeeds in being both charmingly funny and in capturing the melancholy of unrequited or doomed love. It is a love hexagon which spans generations, class, and social obligations – and the grandeur of romance is well balanced by the daily dribble of life in the country.

The company takes on the play with vigor and enthusiasm – a fairly contemporary translation serves them well also. The ensemble cast is large, and the production is lucky to have an all-round engaging set of performers – it’s delightful to watch them enjoy their work as they entertain us. Of particular note are Clemmie Reynold’s energized and conflicted portrayal of the bored and beautiful lady of the house, Natalya, and Philip Robinson’s brief, but highly entertaining performance as Bolshintov.

There is little to discuss as far as design is concerned – the simple, unaffected furniture and dress suited the play well, and brought focus to the plot and performances. Unfortunately, while the stage was set as a thrust with audience seating on three sides, the blocking seemed better suited to a proscenium stage, causing observers at the far ends of the centre and the sides to see mostly the backs of heads. This didn’t cause too much of a problem, as the theatre is fairly intimate, so even if one can’t see the face of the actor, it is easy to connect with them via their voice, though it admittedly would have been preferable to experience both.

Although both the cast and simple staging served the production well, because of it’s length and perhaps its age, some sequences came off as tired and underdeveloped. With such a large cast and multiple subplots it might have been difficult to make every moment matter. Had the company been able to give the same attention and vigor to every moment of the production that some sections certainly received, the play might have been utterly outstanding. As it stands, while enjoyable and entertaining, the play lacked a consistent life. Passion and excitement were certainly not absent, but it might have been more deeply developed. In particular, the relationship between Natalya and the young tutor she falls in love with seemed dry in comparison to the language used to describe their feeling for one another, which resulted in a slight apathy for the whole situation.

Frankly, I liked what a got from this play, but I would have preferred a bit of consistency. It’s a fun couple of hours to be sure, and not a regularly performed piece, so worth checking out for the learning experience. The Acting Gymnasium offers a lot of promise and should definitely be supported for its dedication to delving into the classics!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

A Month in the Country runs in rep with The Seagull at Theatro Technis until 12th April 2013.
Box Office: 020 7387 6617 or book online at http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/theatrotechnis.

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