This new adaption by David Hare brings Chekhov and Rupert Everett to the Theatre Royal Summer Season.
We find the characters, at the close of the nineteenth century. In the heart of the Russian countryside, Vanya and his niece Sonya have worked for years to manage the ramshackle estate on behalf of his brother-in-law, a retired professor.
When the professor arrives with his stunningly beautiful young wife and announces his plan to sell the estate, all their lives are thrown into turmoil.
The glowering oppressive design from Charles Quiggin captures the psychological and physical limitations that the characters are struggling with, and the various tableaux created by Everett’s careful direction depict some glorious pictures.
Having reduced the play to a mere two hours, there is a tension in the dialogue between the much needed laconic humour and also moments when Hare shoehorns in unwieldy chunks of script; such as the Doctor’s extended climate change discussion.
Act Two is far more successful and the revealed expanse of the design encourages yet another angle on their frustrated empty lives.
Rupert Everett is a commanding Vanya, lost in his own self-despair, regrets of life and lack of love.
John Light is a fine Astrov, desperate in his love for Yelena whilst treating the increasingly sick peasants.
But it is the suffering of Sonya played by Katherine Parkinson who holds the attention. The measured pain, sense of duty and need to provide brings a depth of purpose that others lack.
Clemence Poesy is porcelain perfect as Yelena trapped in her marriage to the aged professor.
Perhaps it does not quite live up to expectations however, the detail in the soundscape and design shift the seasons with ease and the final moments reflect the ties of duty and the need for life to just continue as before. The relief that “normality” has returned is almost palpable.
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Reviewer: Petra Schofield
Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov and directed by Rupert Everett, is showing at the Theatre Royal in Bath until Saturday 3rd August 2019.
For more information, and tickets, visit the Theatre Royal website.