Pros: A wonderful way of bringing Chekhov to modern audiences.
Cons: Some of the farce might be too farcical, if there is such a thing. There might not be such a thing.
Bitesize Chekhov does exactly what it says on the tin. For this production, theatre company d’Animate have taken three of 19th century Russian writer Anton Chekhov’s lesser known plays and brought them to life in quick, compact scenes – all delivered in rapid succession one after the other. It’s fast-paced, lively, genuinely entertaining theatre – and it is indeed bite sized as the show lasts for just under an hour.
The plays are still set in late 1800’s Russia, but the actors lend a deliberately modern tone to their voices (this is particularly amusing with regards to the genuinely funny Sarah Hastings as Natalya Stepanova in ‘The Proposal’.) The stage is sparsely furnished and simple design choices form a smart backdrop for each of the plays. A table, chairs and a chaise longue work well to illustrate the Russian period setting, and this understatement is ideal as once the show starts you won’t want to take your eyes off the actors.
The works are brought to life by Michael Rivers, Sarah Hastings, and Will Mytum who all deliver wonderful performances. This trio work well together and are really rather charming. Endearing, funny, and extremely energetic, but still they handle the more somber subject matter with grace and beauty.
Sarah Hastings is lovely in the feminine roles. She’s got brilliant comedic timing and expression and, as previously mentioned, her portrayal of Natalya Stepanovna is hysterical. Will Mytum is similarly delightful. With the broadest range of subject matter during the evening, he tackles all of his characters equally well – and for a youthful guy he impressed with his spot on portrayal of the older men in Chekhov’s plays.
Michael Rivers brings much energy and farce to the stage – so much so that at times I wondered if he had exaggerated too much and whether or not his facial expressions and movements were too far over the top. But then, without fail, I’d find myself laughing heartily at a moment that he’d built up to, and I realized that the gaudiness he applies to the roles is one of the things that makes this performance so approachable and so enjoyable.
This is a very good production. It’s not always easy to breathe life into work from centuries ago, but this company make it look like child’s play. d’Animate have taken a series of classic, yet understated, works and made them interesting and easily accessible to a new generation. These plays are exactly how Checkhov’s writing should be seen by everyone – as fast-paced, full of farce, and yet still poignant. The energy of this group is infectious; go see this show.
Author: Anton Chekhov
Booking Until: 11 July 2015
Box Office: 0844 477 1000
Booking Link: http://www.thecourtyard.org.uk/whatson/585/bitesize-chekhov