It was only two years ago when I last saw a production of The Cherry Orchard. Either I have seen too much theatre, or this play is a favourite in this town. It is probably a favourite given its subject matter of class and the property ladder. Now that is something everyone who goes to the theatre here can relate to. And I really don't get out and see that much theatre surely?
The last time it was at the Old Vic, this time around it was around the corner at the National Theatre, and in a new translation by Andrew Upton. The most discernible difference I could note about this new translation was that there are a few more potty-mouthed words, which in the context of the drama and its setting makes the performers come across like they are frightfully naughty schoolchildren. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the characters in this play could be construed as being a little naughty I suppose (or at least incapable of making sensible decisions).
There is also the problem that this production feels lost in the huge space of the Olivier theatre, despite over extending the set so it stretches across the stage. It is one big house this time around. Big is not always better and everyone also has to shout and play it big in this production for fear of not being heard... If feels at times that the characters have to be larger than life just to be heard (and seen). Chairs are thrown, big dance numbers are staged, emotions are larger than life...
But having said all that, the cast are great. Headed by Zoë Wanamaker, she gives an excellent performance of the conflicted Ranyevskaya, which will have you feeling sympathy for her and wanting to slap her at the same time. Conleth Hill as Lopakhin, the serf-made-good, gives an excellent performance balancing the comedy and drama that is central to the story.
So even a Cherry Orchard with a few blemishes is still a great night at the theatre and this show doesn't disappoint... Much... It is also part of the National Theatre Live and will be broadcast around the world on 30 June. The close ups of a broadcast might even benefit this production. Sitting in the circle it was hard to tell what facial expressions were on the actors.