Tag Archives: John Rayment

Chekhov in Moscow


The Space

Chekhov in Moscow

Chekhov in Moscow

The Space

Reviewed – 28th August 2019



“the success of this play really lies with the performances”


Chekhov in Moscow at The Space Arts Centre on the Isle of Dogs will delight Chekhov fans. The script is packed with memorable lines and is performed by talented actors. If the set and lighting are a bit makeshift, it does not matter. This lively script, written by Mike Carter, and with some help from Chekhov himself, takes the audience to Moscow in the year 1896 or thereabouts, where the playwright is still smarting from the disastrous reception of The Seagull, even
though he is a successful and celebrated short story writer.

Enter actress Olga Knipper (whom Chekhov will marry in 1901) and director Konstantin Stanislavski, who together save him from despair and turn his playwriting life around. But instead of focusing on Chekhov’s rise to fame with the Moscow Art Theatre, which Stanislavski founded, Carter chooses instead to focus on the short plays that Chekhov wrote. His “vaudevilles” as the playwright described them dismissively. Chekhov in Moscow begins with Knipper and Stanislavski waiting impatiently for some new pages that Chekhov has promised them. The playwright soon appears, or rather, tries to sneak as unobtrusively as possible into the rehearsal room because, of course — and every playwright will be familiar with this moment — he has not written them. When confronted with his failure to produce the playwriting goods, Chekhov quips “New pages? Just put people in a room and start them arguing.” And we are off. The next fifty five minutes consist of Olga, Konstantin, and Chekhov’s favourite actor, Alexander Artyom, trying to get Chekhov back to work. They hit on the idea of presenting some extracts from Chekhov’s shorts The Bear and A Tragedian In Spite Of Himself. But while the playwright writhes with embarrassment, or covers his head with his hands at the revival of these early works in 1896, audiences in 2019 will find plenty to laugh at in these charming pieces.

The strengths of this production of Chekhov in Moscow are not just in the writing, but in the acting. There is some fine directing by Elizabeth Quinn as well. But the success of this play really lies with the performances of Louise Devlin, playing Knipper, Edward Tidy as Stanislavski, Anthony Cozens as Chekhov, and John Rayment taking on the Falstaffian role of Chekhov’s friend Alexander Artyom. If there is one performance that deserves to be singled out from this talented quartet, it would be that of Louise Devlin, who brings both versatility and intensity to the role of Knipper (and female and male roles in the vaudevilles). Her acting is persuasive, and by the end of Chekhov in Moscow she has, as Knipper, persuaded the character of Chekhov himself. “You make me feel magnificent” she tells him. Inspirational words for any playwright to hear.

So if you have ever thought that Chekhov is not the playwright for you, try Chekhov in Moscow as an entertaining introduction to the playwright and his milieu. You will even enjoy the easy bus ride from Canary Wharf to The Space Arts Centre, where you can enjoy a drink in the charming cafe before the beginning of the show.


Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Greg Baldock



Chekhov in Moscow

The Space until 1st September


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
FFS! Feminist Fable Series | ★★★★ | March 2019
The Conductor | ★★★★ | March 2019
We Know Now Snowmen Exist | ★★★ | March 2019
Post Mortem | ★★★★ | April 2019
The Wasp | ★★★★ | April 2019
Delicacy | ★★★½ | May 2019
Me & My Doll | ★★ | May 2019
Mycorrhiza | ★★★ | May 2019
Holy Land | ★★★ | June 2019
Parenthood | ★★★½ | July 2019


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Timeless – 3 Stars



Theatre N16

Reviewed – 1st October 2018


“informative and thoughtful, but not emotionally resonant”


“You have a problem” reads a message in Martin’s phone in Timeless. It goes on to describe how he suffers from anterograde amnesia – a condition preventing him from creating new short-term memories and rendering him unable to remember anything past April 2008. This is the central idea of Brian Coyle’s one-man play; however, it never feels like it’s expanded on meaningfully throughout its one-hour runtime.

Martin largely addresses the audience about how his life works with the condition and how his family and friends – specifically his wife Tracey and his friend Neil – cope with the day to day strains of a man for whom the last ten years are a blank, although there are also brief flashbacks interspersed. There is an underlying story that develops, centred around Martin and Tracey’s relationship, but it is so clearly foreshadowed within the first twenty minutes that it becomes repetitive to see it play out exactly as expected. However, Timeless mostly forgoes a standard plot in favour of ruminations on memory, and how if the way an event is remembered or misremembered defines someone’s actions, then Martin not being able to remember anything possibly leaves him without a real sense of identity. This is where the script shines the most, as some psychologically complex ideas are delivered in an accessible and charming way.

John Rayment delivers an excellent performance as Martin, frequently elevating the material and providing an endearing earnestness to the character. It’s a testament to Rayment’s talent that, practically on his own except for a few props in the minimalistic set, he keeps the audience consistently enamoured. However, this is occasionally discordant with what we learn about Martin as the play develops, and it would’ve been a more layered performance had Rayment and director Charlotte Peters found moments to coax out the less earnest sides of the character. Additionally, there were a number of moments where Martin perpetuates outdated gender roles such as by demanding his wife make him a cup of tea, which felt unnecessary when not utilised to make a point about these issues.

And within that lies the main structural issue of Timeless – it was difficult to understand why this story was being told. Anterograde amnesia isn’t a common condition, and the play seemed unwilling to place it in the wider context of a more relatable issue, which subsequently made it informative and thoughtful, but not emotionally resonant. With further drafts from Brian Coyle that are able to let the audience empathise more, and with perhaps additional actors that let us see Martin’s relationships play out dynamically, Timeless has a lot of potential that currently feels hazy and distant.


Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography courtesy Mixed Up Theatre 



Theatre N16 until 4th October


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Unicorn | ★★★½ | May 2018
Shakespeare’s Mad Women | ★★★★ | June 2018
Reading Gaol | ★★★½ | July 2018
Castles Palaces Castles | ★★ | September 2018
Rough | ★★ | September 2018


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