Tag Archives: Martin Shaw

The Cherry Orchard

The Cherry Orchard

★★★★

Theatre Royal Windsor

The Cherry Orchard

The Cherry Orchard

Theatre Royal Windsor

Reviewed – 14th October 2021

★★★★

 

“The sheer magic of this production is the beguiling mix of melancholy and madness; of manners and mannerisms”

 

The original intention of Chekhov was for “The Cherry Orchard” to be a comedy; yet when it was first staged in 1904 at the Moscow Art Theatre, the writer/director Constantin Stanislavski turned it into a tragedy. If not distressed, Chekhov was very irritated by the misrepresentation of his work. Enough to put him in a mild state of depression. Ever since, there has been much discussion on the multi-layered nature of the play’s message.

Sean Mathias’ production at Theatre Royal, Windsor knows which side of the fence it lies and undoubtedly remains true to Chekhov’s intentions. With the help of a stellar cast the humour of the piece shines through and is maintained throughout the overly long two and a half hours running time. This is no mean feat, given that the characters themselves are generally not the comic type. Yet the wonderful ensemble cast bring out the flaws and the foolishness; the childishness in a seemingly mature group of people. It’s a kind of coming-of-age story for those who have already long come of age.

Fresh from the demands of his trail-blazing and age-defying Hamlet, Sir Ian McKellen is taking a step back, trying to blend into the background as the elderly servant Firs. There is a danger of his cameo becoming the lead but his generosity and sheer attention to the detail of how his character fits into the narrative lead to what is both a show-stealing performance, yet allowing his fellow actors to plunder as much as they can. Robert Daws is an absolute delight as the cash strapped moocher, overflowing with optimism and drunken charm and bouncing off Martin Shaw’s more successful but less confident Lopakhin. Shaw skilfully managed to mix a self-conscious awareness of Lopakhin’s peasant background with a cocksure sense of his own right to cut the privileged down to size (and ultimately cut down their beloved cherry orchard).

Francesca Annis, as Ranyevskaya the owner of the estate, swoops onto the stage majestically. No stranger to personal tragedy, she still seems clothed in waves of happiness. Yet Annis has the skill to show us the many tears and gashes that are covered up. The childlike way she greets her furniture as affectionately as her family is simultaneously ridiculous and tender. Her mix of tragedy and comedy is most (there’s only one way to put it) Chekhovian. But the minor characters also manage to have a major effect. Missy Malek and Kezrena James as the two sisters; and Alis Wyn Davies as the maid, Dunyasha, are names to look out for. Alison Halstead gives a fireball of a performance as the circus performer, trickster come governess, Charlotte. The only one who doesn’t quite seem to grasp the sense of fun that can be had with these characters is Jenny Seagrove, who plays the brother Gaev with a touch too much seriousness and lack of colour.

This is a piece that focuses on the characters and their interactions more than the story. After all, not an awful lot happens. In Act One, the cherry orchard is in danger of being sold, in Act Two it is on the verge of being sold, in Act Three it is sold, and in Act Four it has been sold. The sheer magic of this production is the beguiling mix of melancholy and madness; of manners and mannerisms and rambling lives that are just about keeping afloat. Much to relate to. There is tragedy everywhere, but we don’t always want to focus on that. This show, led by the inimitable McKellen et al, encompasses Chekhov’s spirit and lets us laugh at the seriousness of it all. Even if only for a couple of hours, but it is worth every minute.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Jack Merriman

 

The Cherry Orchard

Theatre Royal Windsor until 13th November

 

Other four star reviews this year:
Public Domain | ★★★★ | Online | January 2021
Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament | ★★★★ | Online | February 2021
The Picture of Dorian Gray | ★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Tarantula | ★★★★ | Online | April 2021
Abba Mania | ★★★★ | Shaftesbury Theatre | May 2021
Animal Farm | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | May 2021
Stags | ★★★★ | Network Theatre | May 2021
You Are Here | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | May 2021
Amélie The Musical | ★★★★ | Criterion Theatre | June 2021
Express G&S | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | June 2021
Forever Plaid | ★★★★ | Upstairs at the Gatehouse | June 2021
Forgetful Heart | ★★★★ | Online | June 2021
Ginger Johnson & Pals | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | June 2021
Doctor Who Time Fracture | ★★★★ | Unit HQ | June 2021
Romeo and Juliet | ★★★★ | Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre | June 2021
Wild Card | ★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | June 2021
Be More Chill | ★★★★ | Shaftesbury Theatre | July 2021
Copenhagen | ★★★★ | Cambridge Arts Theatre | July 2021
Gin Craze | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | July 2021
Lava | ★★★★ | Bush Theatre | July 2021
My Night With Reg | ★★★★ | The Turbine Theatre | July 2021
Pippin | ★★★★ | Charing Cross Theatre | July 2021
The Game Of Love And Chance | ★★★★ | Arcola Theatre | July 2021
The Ladybird Heard | ★★★★ | Palace Theatre | July 2021
The Two Character Play | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | July 2021
Big Big Sky | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | August 2021
Constellations | ★★★★ | Vaudeville Theatre | August 2021
Jersey Boys | ★★★★ | Trafalgar Theatre | August 2021
The Rice Krispie Killer | ★★★★ | Lion and Unicorn Theatre | August 2021
Fever Pitch | ★★★★ | Hope Theatre | September 2021
Myra Dubois: Dead Funny | ★★★★ | Garrick Theatre | September 2021
Catching Comets | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | September 2021
Back To The Future | ★★★★ | Adelphi Theatre | October 2021
Rice | ★★★★ | Orange Tree Theatre | October 2021

 

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Love Letters

Love Letters

★★★★

Theatre Royal Windsor

Love Letters

Love Letters

Theatre Royal Windsor

Reviewed – 13th October 2020

★★★★

 

“Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove are perfectly cast for this agreeably wry game of theatrical tennis”

 

Windsor’s Theatre Royal successfully re-opened last night with A.R. Gurney’s gentle hit ‘Love Letters’ starring Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove. The affection in which this lovely old theatre is held locally was evident in the warm reception given to Producer Bill Kenwright as he paid tribute to the team behind the show and welcomed the audience back. He also announced ‘Windsor on Air’ – a new season of radio style one week runs which includes hits like ‘The Lady in the Van’ and Tom Conti and Felicity Kendal in ‘Lloyd George Knew my Father’. A comprehensive set of measures ensure audience safety, including serving drinks to your seat.

‘Love Letters’ began in 1988 as an epistolatory novel, but it soon became a big Broadway hit. It’s a play which ‘needs no theatre, no special set, no memorization of lines’. The two characters sit at desks at 60 degrees to each other and read letters and cards which chart a half century of hectic and privileged East Coast American living. A glittering roster of past performers has included the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Charlton Heston, Ali MacGraw – and even Larry Hagman.

At its soft heart the play is about maintaining togetherness through separation, as childhood sweethearts stay close by correspondence, as their lives dramatically diverge. Only in the last, poignant moments does one character finally look at the other.

Martin Shaw (‘Judge John Deed’ and many others) and Jenny Seagrove (‘Peak Practice’, ‘Judge John Deed’, the film ‘A Chorus of Disapproval’ and much more) are perfectly cast for this agreeably wry game of theatrical tennis. The writing is excellent, particularly in the second half, when the pair of elementary students grow into adults. She is a ‘lascivious old dame’ and he a ‘shifty [but very successful] bastard’. His dogged defence of the power of letter-writing gets gently patted back by her one-liners and aching silences.

Roy Marsden directs this bittersweet and delightful Pulitzer-listed comedy with a light touch.

 

 

Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography Simon Vail

 


Love Letters

Theatre Royal Windsor until 17th October

 

Previously reviewed by David:
Assassins | ★★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | September 2019
The Mousetrap | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | October 2019
The Nutcracker | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | November 2019
What’s In A Name? | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | November 2019
Ten Times Table | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | January 2020
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | February 2020
The Last Temptation Of Boris Johnson | ★★★½ | Theatre Royal Windsor | February 2020
The Black Veil | ★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | March 2020
The Wicker Husband | ★★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | March 2020
The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde | ★★★★★ | Wilde Theatre | September 2020

 

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