Love in a Nutshell
Reviewed – 11th March 2020
“Across all elements, there were moments that were wonderful throughout”
Xameleon Theatre presented an evening of nine short plays by Chekhov. The direction of the production (Dmitry Turchaninov) neatly linked each play to a theme of water; the set design (also by Turchaninov) emulated this by consisting of either a piece of blue squared silk laid on the floor in the first act, or white in the second, representing the different seasons. The play was entirely in Russian, with surtitles projected onto the back wall of the theatre (a note is given to those that do not speak Russian to sit in clear view of the surtitles at the beginning of the performance).
Turchaninov used this linking theme of water in order to transition between each separate story; different characters would approach the water and the narrator (Chekhov), performed by both Oleg Sidorchik and Vadim Bogdanov would announce the new setting. Whilst this was clear on occasion, Turchanivov’s decision to have two narrators was confusing, as this, alongside the rest of the cast, who were all also multirolling meant that it wasn’t quite clear when one story ended and another began; especially as on occasion stories would overlap for humour. This might have worked had the show been in English, but with an audience trying to decipher all of this at once, and it not be in English, it was challenging.
Standout performances were given by Irina Kara, as she portrayed a matchmaker who intended to set up a 50 year old man, Stychkin (Oleg Hill) who had very specific tastes despite insisting he was easy going. As they drank vodka on stage her notably odd laugh became more prominent, pulling a great deal of humour from the piece. However, despite being drunk, Kara managed to pull a poignancy out of her character when she matches herself with her co-protagonist.
Despite some performances being strong, the style of the production was confusing. In the final story, Ivan Vassilevich Lomov (Vadim Bogdanov) goes to propose to Natalia Stepanovna (Vlada Lemeshevska), who he cannot seem to stop arguing with. This piece bordered on an absurdist farce which, if emulated across the entire production, would have been a clear intention and might have been brilliant. However, it was disorientating to suddenly deliver an absurdist piece, with the other pieces being far more typically Chekhovian.
However, there was a flash of brilliance in a story about a pair ice-fishing, who don’t speak the same language and are increasingly frustrated with one another. A build up of tension and humour is developed before this suddenly ceased as Gryabov (Oleg Hill) jumps into the icy water. At this moment, the white silk sheet was lifted above Gryabov’s head and he was seen to be struggling in the cold water. In this moment Yuri Galkin’s lighting and sound design worked magic, allowing the whole atmosphere to go cold as the theatre was plummeted into a hazy blue and the sound of someone under water banging on the ice above played. This design alongside Turchaninov’s direction was beautifully realised.
Across all elements, there were moments that were wonderful throughout Love in a Nutshell, however an overall inconsistency of style and a confused layout made the production hard to follow.
Reviewed by Mimi Monteith
Love in a Nutshell
Cockpit Theatre until 13th March
Previously reviewed at this venue: