Writer: Anton Chekhov
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
Chekhovian champions frequently bemoan the fact that companies ‘doing Chekhov’ fail to find the comedy inherent in his writing, and instead play the tragedy Stanislavsky recognised in his works. d’Animate certainly do not fall in to this trap, bringing oodles of energy to this trio of shorts, however their frenetic style allows many of the playwright’s poignant moments to fall by the wayside.
The Dangers of Tobacco(orOn the Harmful Effects of Tobacco) andThe Proposalfit neatly together, utilising the performers punch and pep and eliciting a number of laughs from the audience. The former is slickly stylised, with the three-strong cast moving in unison and manipulating Michael Rivers as he performs the rôle of hen-pecked husband with aplomb. The second showcases some stunning slap-stick, however the cast end up shouting and shrieking their way through the text, with much of it becoming incomprehensible as they tip over from farce into melodrama.
Swansongstrikes an entirely different tone, preceded by an unnecessarily lengthy scene-change-cum-chase-scene; presumably to cushion the contrast and hammer home the fact that its central character, Vasili Svietlovidoff, has had a very drunken night. It is not required as, like all of Chekhov’s work, this is implicit in a text which needs little help to shine. A piece consisting of the musings of a 68 year old man certainly poses a challenge to a young cast, and sadly Will Mytum makes no attempt to physicalise the character or age his voice, though Rivers finds some stillness and sadness in his minor rôle. All seem more at home with the Shakespearian sections that with those of their chosen author, but the movement-led flashbacks of Vasili’s life are well done and underscored, appropriately, by Saint-Saens’ The Swan.
The three-strong company all show talent and promise, but given text that is so cleverly crafted by a playwright synonymous with naturalism, a little more emotion and a lot less volume could elevate this production to more than a plethora of prat-falls.
Runs until 25thAug