Writer: Anton Chekhov translated by Rosamund Bartlett and Constance Garnett
Reviewer: Elizabeth Vile
Winter’s Tales is a short season of readings by some of Britain’s best actors reading a selection of short stories by some of the most renowned short story writers. Each performance is accompanied by a musician and takes place in the beautiful and intimate Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
The season has begun with Penelope Wilton reading four short stories by Anton Chekhov. Although he is known more for his plays than his short stories Chekhov writing is vibrant, witty and relevant to today’s society. It is also, maybe more surprisingly, funny.
The stories are very well chosen and compliment each other very well through subject matter, length and tone, which means that the audience isconsistently engaged throughout. The Huntsman is a heartbreaking story about two people and their inability to be together even though in the eyes of the law they are together. Fish Love is a humorous tale about the effects of unrequited love on a fish and a poet,An Avenger focuses on a cuckolded husband and his attempt to enact revenge on his wife and her lover and finally The Lady With The Little Dog, which is a tender and touching story about the problems of loving someone who you are not married to.
Each tale is read beautifully by Penelope Wilton. Her clarity of speech and pace is perfect and her interpretation of the characters worksvery well. She is also able to draw the audience into the story and cleverly enhances the humor and pathos by her pauses and vocal changes. Although she occasionally fumbles a word, she confidently continues and never let the audience get away from her for a moment.
Accompanying Wilton is Martynas Levickis on the accordion. His music is beautifully chosen and the passion that he feels while playing affects the whole audience. Each contrasting piece makes the audience feel a range of emotions from joy to sadness and the applause after each piece becomeslouder and more enthusiastic as his talent shone through.
Overall this was an atmospheric and inspiring performance that showcases the power of Chekhov’s writing in a sensitive and engaging way. The simplicity of the event meast that the full power of Chekhov words were given centre stage and the power of the written and spoken word was allowed to be felt.
The Winter’s Tales season runs until 5 January 2015.