Uncle Vanya is Chekhov’s most economic play, with just nine acting roles and a running time of 90 minutes. However, Johnson’s adaptation runs at a good two and a half hours (including interval). In this version, Johnson highlights the incessant self-aggrandisement of the male characters and their empty words while the world and the women around them slowly shatter.
Johnson has morphed Chekhov’s original text using contemporary British vernacular that occasionally jars (the word 'whatever' is spun throughout the show) but is none the less effective and accessible.
Alice Bailey Johnson (Terry Johnson’s daughter) enlivens the typically drab portrayal of put upon Sonya to great effect. She becomes the play’s beacon of light, striving to keep her disgruntled family’s spirits buoyant at all costs, even when she discovers her great love for the doctor Astrov will never be reciprocated.
Alan Cox’s portrayal of Vanya is consistently amusing; bouncing between playfulness and depression, although he is somewhat hammy. Alec Newman is solid as the bemoaning and ecology-obsessed Astrov. Having appeared in blockbuster films such as Mad Max: Fury Road and The Neon Demon, this is Abbey Lee’s stage debut, playing the gorgeous yet listless Yeliena. It feels slightly unfair to have placed her in the spotlight in such a major role as her theatre chops are not yet up to scratch.
Apart from Shakespeare’s plays, Uncle Vanya is the most performed play of the 20th Century. This adaptation was inspired when Terry Johnson and actor Rosamund Pike were talking about future projects, having just finished their production of Hitchcock Blonde. Pike realised she was exactly the same age as the play’s female protagonist Yeliena (27). Johnson realised he was Uncle Vanya’s age (47). This inspired him to write a version of the show that was performed for one night only at a Russian restaurant in Knightsbridge. Now Johnson is 62. It has been a long genesis to get this full production to Hampstead Theatre.
The play suffers from being overly long and sadly does not mine the depths of unvoiced emotion that Chekhov is so famous for. Although it is an enjoyable evening of theatre, there are questions surrounding what exactly this play is expressing about today’s society and why it is on now.
|What||Uncle Vanya, Hampstead Theatre review|
|Where||Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage, London, NW3 3EU | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Swiss Cottage (underground)|
30 Nov 18 – 12 Jan 19, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£10 - £37|
|Website||Click here to book now|