05 October 2023
Duke Of York’s Theatre
0.0 out of 5.0 stars
Okay, this one isn’t an easy review to write, but here we go.
I was initially unsure whether I even wanted to see Andrew Scott’s one man production of Vanya, having seen and utterly hated the play before, but being a huge fan of Scott’s work, I felt conflicted. A friend eventually talked me into giving it a go, despite the extremely high prices.
Usually, Scott has been very active in keeping ticket prices low for his plays, making them more accessible to a wider audience, so seeing sky high pricing for this one was a bit of a shock. Still, Scott’s enormous acting talent has always been absolutely stunning to watch. Unfortunately this isn’t the case in this play.
With a recent influx in one-person plays, many of them riotously successful, Vanya didn’t seem like the oddest choice for this type of production. After all there are only eight characters to deal with, and out of those only four get fully fledged personalities while the other half seem more like side characters. And Scott makes a good effort trying to give each one of them a distinct voice, speech pattern, posture, and mannerisms. However, at times this seems affected and gimmicky, especially when female characters speak or move.
While some props and movements are used to distinguish the characters from one another, this is by no means consistent. Knowing the play quite well, I was able to follow the plot and figure out who was speaking when, but imagine it would be quite confusing for those who come to a performance without knowledge of the material. With at times rapid fire switches between characters, some scenes became more caricature, comical skit, that does not befit the material at all.
Taking an already quite dreary play and trying to spruce it up with humour only served to lessen the impact, robbing the story of its depth and emotion, leading to a bland and at times exasperating performance.
Scenes of flirtation played by only one actor become quite farcical, with Scott turning in circles while raising and lowering his tone of voice to signify that there are two people speaking to each other. Several physically intimate scenes devolve into uncomfortable and juvenile pastiches, reminiscent of teenagers making fun of couples by wrapping their arms around their own shoulders, pretending to make out with someone.
Shortening Vanya to under two hours with no interval does not do justice to the original play, thought not giving patrons a chance to leave during interval might have been a rare, clever choice here. I don’t think I have ever left the theatre feeling so bamboozled, as if the whole production is meant as an elaborate prank on theatre goers who are willing to shell out for high priced tickets.
Overall, the one-man production really did not work out in this case, robbing the play of its soul and emotional depth while making one of the most impressive theatre actors of our time seem silly and at time even ridiculous on stage. In hindsight, I honestly wish I hadn’t attended this show at all.