The Cherry Orchard
20 October 2022
The Yard Theatre
5.0 out of 5.0 stars
The Yard Theatre is currently hosting The Cherry Orchard, Anton Chekov’s famous play about the end of the rule of aristocracy in Russia, but adapted by Vinay Patel to be set in space!
This science fiction adaptation really has it all! Robots, romance, revolution! The stage reminds of the central console of the Tardis, as it continuously revolves slowly around itself. Impressive and simplistic at the same time, it serves are the perfect setting for this whirlwind exploration of classism, elitism, and purpose.
The civilisation on a large spaceship is in uproar. They are the hope for humanity’s survival, having left the Earth centuries ago to travel to a far off destination where they can re-settle a habitable planet far away from the ruins of the old one. The inhabitants of the ship, as well as several generations of their ancestors, have only ever known the ship, the mission, the destination far far away.
While the “downdeckers” work hard to keep the ship and its occupants in top shape, the leaders only exist to make decisions for everyone else. Cloned from one leader to the next, the idea of genetically pre-destined leadership harkens back to archaic concepts of aristocratic superiority.
When a habitable planet is spotted very close by, the downdeckers want to divert course and settle the planet, but the leaders refuse the very notion, leading the crew to contemplate revolt and forced diversion.
The captain is given a choice, divide up the cherry orchard in the arboretum to give each family on board their own little patch to do with as they please, extending the time they will be willing to work for a goal none of them will ever live to see, or face an election of a new leader and become irrelevant.
Presented with so much nuance that this futuristic exploration of human nature feels applicable even to our culture, while adding whit and humour throughout, The Cherry Orchard is a delight. Putting a somewhat aged plot into a context that feels closer to home (despite being even further away in terms of actual years) is a stroke of genius, catapulting the play into a bleak future where humanity has destroyed the planet and needed to send a ship of survivors out with an uncertain future.
Adding depth and a feeling of ancient history by giving the leaders routines and phrases hailing the ancestors and the sacred destination, this play does an amazing job at creating an intricate world in such a short amount of time.
With clever staging, compelling and interesting characters, and a gorgeous story, The Cherry Orchard is an amazing production. I cannot recommend this enough to anyone interested in science fiction!