Vanya and his niece Sonya live on a sprawling, decaying country estate, a place they at once love and detest (which has echoes of Chekov's own countryside retreat). Their benefactor — a scholar they hoped one day would rise to greatness and lift them out of poverty — visits with his new young wife with the hopes of settling outside the city, where they can no longer afford to live. All the men of the piece are enchanted by the new wife, Yelena. But both Yelena and Sonya are unhappy, their dreams of perfect romance seemingly unreachable. Violent, passionate and full of lyrical ideals about how to live life, Uncle Vanya is one of the great plays of the twentieth century.
Anya Reiss is earning a reputation as a fine classical adaptor; her versions of Three Sisters and The Seagull at the Southwark Playhouse were exciting modern reinterpretations with her company Jagged Fence, who pride themselves on producing “bold, anarchic and joyous work.”
This team's adaptation of Three Sisters translated Russian wastes into a Middle-Eastern desert and the sisters as ex-pats longing to return to London. Reiss makes bold choices with her adaptations, giving her work a unique edge. While such an offbeat approach can be hit and miss, after a century of revivals a new slant on Chekov is refreshing. The Guardian described Reiss’ adaptation of The Seagull as “meticulous and captivating.”
The cast is led by John Hannah as the titular Uncle. He's a familiar face from films including Four Weddings and Funeral and Sliding Doors but in the past he as also won acclaim at the Young Vic and RSC -- and this is an exciting return to the stage after six years of acting for television. Amanda Hale, who captivated us as an icy yet vulnerable investigator in The Nether (Royal Court), is playing Sonya.
Director Russell Bolam is a rising star (thanks mostly to his work with Jagged Fence.) Later this year, he will be taking on Philip Ridley’s Ghost from a Perfect Place at the Arcola. He’s a talented dramaturg with an eye for a story’s arc. His shows have been feted with Time Out Critic’s Choice awards and his direction praised for its “clarity and flair” by Stage magazine.
Already the creative team assembled is a commendable one; Isobel Waller-Bridge (sister of actress Phoebe) is composing the music, Janet Bird designing the set and Johanna Town designing lighting. As part of the St James’ Stage One programme, the show is produced by new-on-the-scene Emily Dobbs— Jagged Fence’s founder.
|What||Uncle Vanya, St James Theatre|
|Where||The Other Palace Theatre, 12 Palace Street, London, SW1E 5JA | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Victoria (underground)|
08 Oct 14 – 08 Nov 14, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Website||Click here to book via St James Theatre|