The Cherry Orchard
Tue 5 Mar, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
Everyman Theatre’s production of The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov doesn’t stray far from the original play, first premiered in 1904, though this one also uses Trevor Griffiths’ 1977 version as an inspiration too.
The show kicks off with angst as the all-too indulgent Mrs. Lyuba Ranevsky is soon approaching her fate – that of having to sell off her family’s estate and its beloved cherry orchard to pay off her debts. After spending five years in Paris with her lover, getting over the death of her son, Lyuba isn’t quite prepared to face the music. She’s has been somewhat rescued by her daughter; after an attempted suicide, Anya sets out to Paris to bring her mother home. The sale of the cherry orchard dismays Lyuba, a symbol of an aristocratic entitlement. The play looks at addressing the imbalance of wealth.
The estate is embedded with memories of the past, especially of Lyuba’s seven-year-old son whom she mourns. To let go of the house would be to let go of his memory. But she stands alone in this stance, as to others the house is a symbol of exploitation and misery.
The play is situated at the brink of the failed 1905 Russian Revolution. Lyuba’s position is symbolic of changing times. Yermolay Lopakhin, from a family of serfs that once worked on Lyuba’s estate, is now a businessman who wants to transform the orchard into holiday homes. Despite his ambition, he is still deeply self-conscious about his social standing and complains about his lack of education. The selling of the orchard is the turning of the tables. The days of the aristocracy are dying out.
A side plot to the main storyline is Anya’s love affair with Trofimov, a strongly-opinionated student full of utopian idealism. Anya wants to run away from her family with this young man. As Lyuba’s daughter this represents yet another symbol of Lyuba’s loss of control and status. The Cherry Orchard is an anecdote of changing times.
This production follows the original very closely and can often feel static. The costume design however, is greatly put together and professionally done, though not as much can be said about the lighting and sound system, which was quite uncomfortable to bear at times. The show had snippets of humor but not enough to give the show oomph.
words Yasmin Grant
The Cherry Orchard is at Chapter until Sat 9 Mar. Tickets and info here