Monday, 19 June 2017

Nottingham Lace Market Theatre.
I've never really been a fan of Chekhov so it was with mixed emotions I took my place at the Lace Market Theatre for one of his lesser performed plays, and a comedy as well.
Knowing the calibre and the past roles of many of the actors, I was confident that the night wouldn't be totally lost on me. Slowly but surely I warmed to the play, mainly due to the comedy and the talents of the cast.
Chekhov wrote the play in 10 days after being commissioned to write a comedy. Initially Chekhov disliked the play so re-wrote it and, like myself, warmed to it. I can't believe that Chekhov and I have the same theatrical leanings!
For the past five years, Ivanov has been married to Anna Petrovna, but she is now dying, unbeknown to Anna.
The doctor, an 'honest' man as he frequently reminds the rest of the cast, informs Ivanov that his wife is dying of Tuberculosis, and that she needs to recover by going to the Crimea.
Ivanov is unable, and unwilling, to pay for the trip as he is heavily in debt. Ivanov is criticised for heartlessness and for spending time with friemds, the Lebedevs instead of his seriously ill wife.
Sasha, the daughter of the Lebedevs, is infatuated with Ivanov. She throws herself at Ivanov and he is unable to resist: the act concludes with the two kissing. Unfortunately, Anna arrives unexpectedly at just this moment and witnesses the betrayal.
It all ends very dramatically!!!
Playing Ivanov is Robert Goll, an actor who is just as at home performing Shakespeare as he looks playing Dame in panto or Hector in "The History Boys". Regular review readers will see that I hold Mr Goll in high esteem and playing this troubled and melancholic Russian is just another classy piece of theatrical success to doff my reviewing cap to Rob.Always a very natural actor, the words and the comedy just spill from his mouth as if they were his own words.
Joanna Hoyes plays the long suffering Anna, and once more a lovely naturalness about this performance, and by Act Three, she really is not looking too well, Anna that is not Joanna. A passionate performance.
I loved the quirkiness of Marcus Wakely's performance of the Uncle Malvei
Mark Gadsby entered as a fun character, up for a laugh as Ivanov's estate manager, Borkin by putting a gun up to Ivanov's head whilst reading and then he became more serious when he found out about Ivanov's financial situation. A nice character turnaround.
The "honest" doctor is played by Daniel Radcliffe lookalikey, Daniel Potts. Another clean cut performance from Daniel with plenty of fire in his speeches.
The Lebedev family are played by Hugh Jenkins (Pavel), Sue Drew (his wife) and Gina Radford (Sasha). Really good performance by all but loved the final scenes with Gina (no spoilers here!!).
The classic "over the top" character is a wealthy widow called Marfa, who provided a great deal of comedy,and frontage, and was played by the lovely Michelle Smith. What a costume!
Other cast members were Carole Barton (Avdotia), James Whitby (Piotr), Malcolm Wilson (Gavrila), Lorna McCullough, Marie Morehen, Sophie Owen, Cosima Santoro and David Watts as Guests.
Directed by Cynthia Marsh, she retained the comedy and pace coming just right, and as a non Chekhov fan, even I was entertained.
Rose Dudley designed the set which reflected the era and financial status of the families well.
Giving atmosphere to the piece was a subtle sound scape and design by Matthew Allcock and lighting, designed by Hugh Philip.
I part mentioned the costumes earlier but they were really rather magnificent.
I'm not going to say that this is going to be one of my favourite plays performed by the Lace Market Theatre but you have to acknowledge that it was probably a bit of a risk, not being the most well known of plays, Theatre is all about taking that chance and introducing plays like this to the mainstream theatre goer.
It may not be in my Top 10 but it was by far not the most un-entertaining couple of hours I've spent in a theatre. And I must add a thank you to whoever was in charge of the air conditioning as it was lovely and cool in there tonight.
"Ivanov" is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 24 June 2017.

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