The Cherry Orchard, theatre review: A season of fruitlessness

Lovelorn: Jade Williams as the dutiful Varya: Robert Workman Photographer
Lovelorn: Jade Williams as the dutiful Varya: Robert Workman Photographer

Of all Chekhov’s mature masterpieces, The Cherry Orchard is the play that goes centrifugal the most easily unless due care is paid.

That, unfortunately, is what happens with Mehmet Ergen’s hit-and-miss modern dress production, the third and final instalment in the Arcola’s far-more-miss-than-hit season commemorating the centenary of the Russian Revolution.

While there are some finely delineated turns – Jade Williams as a wistful, dutiful and quietly lovelorn Varya stands out – too many performances give precious little sense of interiority and depth. And depth we need here, if this portrait of a head-in-the-sand aristocracy heading swiftly towards the obsolescence of 1917 is not to seem merely frivolous.

Sian Thomas is good value as the flighty and just occasionally glorious Madame Ranevskaya, back from impecunious self-imposed exile in Paris to find her estate and beloved cherry orchard about to be put up for auction to pay off the family’s mounting debts.

Like almost everything and everyone else here, the cherry orchard’s best days are behind it; the motif of fruitlessness wafts elegiacally through the acts. Even socially minded eternal student Trofimov (sharp work from Abhin Galeya) is futile, as he can’t focus himself sufficiently to graduate.

Until March 25, Arcola Theatre;