A Shiny Life For Me!

a personal review blog by Bianca

The Cherry Orchard

The Cherry Orchard
21 May 2024
Donmar Warehouse
4.0 out of 5.0 stars

Having massively enjoyed the 2022 production of The Cherry Orchard at the Yard theatre, which was adapted into a sci-fi setting aboard a spaceship, the revival of Chekov’s final play at the Donmar Warehouse felt like an opportunity to find out whether it is the play itself, or the very modern interpretation that I personally enjoyed.

Running until the 22 June, Benedict Andrews’ interpretation of the play sticks a little closer to the original setting, while updating the language to a more contemporarily understood verbiage. With a stage entirely clad in patterned, umber and red toned carpets. When not on stage, cast members sit in the audience, barely standing out from regular theatre goers.

While the plot is set in the 1980s, rather than almost a hundred years prior as in the original text, the downfall of the formerly wealthy and influential family holding on to a now-useless cherry orchard on their vast estate becomes centred on financial mismanagement, rather than the societal upheaval in late 18-hundreds Russia that led to the freedom of serfs, which in turn led to the downfall of the land owning upper class who were unable to retain their wealth and influence without cheap labour to exploit. This firmly throws the play into a more modern setting, reminding of recent recessions, the widening of the wealth gap, and of course enthusiastic land developers ruthlessly mowing down and partitioning land that was once part of vast estates.

This pivot into contemporary themes works incredibly well in this well paced production, with strong leads in Nina Hoss as disillusioned, desperate, and indebted landowner Ranevskaya, and Adeel Akhtar as ambitious Lopakhin, grandson of serfs who once worked the orchard, now eager to triumph over the formerly rich landowners by buying and developing their land.

There is a surprising amount of comedic moments woven into the devastating and impactful play, elevating this production to a touching, modern, and wholly accessible version of Chekov’s original. A fantastic reimagining of The Cherry Orchard.

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