The Cherry Orchard Destroyed

“Love and marriage have been commodified.” Trofimov

“Try being compassionate.”  Ranevskaya to Trofimov

 

Nina Hoss as Ranevskaya and Adele Akbar as Lopakhin (Photo: Johan Persson)

I remember one of my first Cherry Orchards.  It was at the National Theatre with Vanessa Redgrave as Madame Ranevskaya  and her brother Corin Redgrave as Ranevskaya’s brother Gaev.  This play was put on at the National alongside Summerfolk, Gorky’s play about the people occupying the holiday homes called Dachas. 

It was the historical connection of Chekhov’s 1903 play The Cherry Orchard which made a deep impression on me.  The Freedom the Serfs in 1861 meant that there were no peasants left to pick the cherries. More importantly, the debt that Ranevskaya (Nina Hoss) refused to deal with meant the cherry orchard would not be willing sold but repossessed. 

This is the age of reform in Russia, the land owning class without the means to sustain their lifestyle and the rise of property developers from peasant stock like Yermolai Lopakhin (Adeel Akhtar) now able to lord it over the descendants of their former masters.  And all this predicting the tremendous change that will come with the Russian Revolution of 1917. 

June Watson as Firs (Photo: Johan Persson)

Search me why you would want to see a Cherry Orchard out of historical context?  Australian Director Benedict Andrews has vaguely set this one in the late 1980s just before Perestroika where the regime was not the owners of the Cherry Orchards which have all been felled to accommodate the building of dachas?  This means that the central theme of the play becomes mismanagement of debt and the rewritten Marxist speeches of Pyotr Trofimov Sergeevich (Daniel Monks) have a greater impact. June Watson plays the aged servant Firs in a gender switch. 

There is a programme note on environmental change with the idea that Russia’s gentry estates were making way for industrialisation and the destruction of forests, woodlands, river systems and micro climates.  I did not pick this up from the production, only from the programme. 

Most of the cast, when not onstage, sit anonymously in the audience and their costume does not pick them out as actors rather than audience members. Most extravagantly dressed is Leonard Gaev Andreevich (Michael Gould) in maybe 70s paint splattered shirt and turquoise trousers.  Gaev is chewing Chapa Chops lollipops and I’m not sure what era that makes him.  Gaev is waxing lyrical over a 100 year old bookcase and suggesting they should throw it a birthday party.  Lopakhin, the property developer is not welcomed by anybody.  We remember that Chekhov’s family were originally peasants.

Adele Akbar as Lopakhin. (Photo: Johan Persson)

The German actress Nina Hoss is a commendable Ranevskaya, a woman who romantically remembers the “precious” cherry blossom and imagines she sees her dead child walking through the orchard.  The furniture is absent, instead the set is made up of patterned red carpets and the cast spend some time lying on the floor as if in the sunshine.  The loud noise described as the breaking string is heard in the Second Act and they speculate that there has been an accident somewhere.

In Act Two some members of the audience are hauled up to dance to the live band and there is smoke for Charlotte (Sarah Amankwah)’s performing of her magic tricks.  As the result of the auction becomes known with Gaev’s strategy having failed, victory drums are sounded for Lapakhin. The carpets are taken up as the family prepare to leave and, unthinking as ever, they lock Firs in the house, alone.

This is the production of The Cherry Orchard that I have liked least.  I am republishing my review of the Redgraves in Trevor Nunn’s production here.              

 

Sadie Soverall as Anya and Daniel Monks as Trofimov (Photo: Johan Persson)

Production Notes

The Cherry Orchard

Written by Anton Chekhov

Adapted and Directed by Benedict Andrews

Cast

Starring:

June Watson

Adeel Akhtar

David Ganly

Marli Siu

Michael Gould

Nina Hoss

Sarah Amankwah

Daniel Monks

Sadie Soverall

Éanna Hardwicke

With:

Yshani Perinpanayagam

Posy Sterling

Nathan Armarkwei Laryea

Adam Beattie

Stefano Franco

Daisy George

Emanuela Monni

Innes Yellowlees

Creatives

Director: Benedict Andrews

Set Designer: Magda Willi

Costume Designer: Merle Hensel

Composer:  Zac Gvi, May Kershaw

Lighting Designer: James Farncombe

Composer: Jherek Bischoff

Sound Designer:  Dan Balfour

Musical  Director:  Zac Gvi

Information

Running Time: Two hours 45 minutes

including  an interval

Booking to 22nd June 2024

Theatre: 

Donmar Warehouse

Earlham Street

Covent Garden

London WC2H 9LX

Tube : Covent Garden

Website: donmarwarehouse.com

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at the Donmar Warehouse

 on 3rd May 2024