Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

The Cherry Orchard (NT Live)

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 24th July 2011

Once again, your opportunity to experience world class theatre streamed all the way from London, straight to the comfort of your local cinema.

This politically-charged and socially aware Chekhov play is largely entertaining, if often intense (written as a comedy but often directed more like tragedy).  The National Theatre adaptation, by Cate Blanchett’s husband Andrew Upton, allows for some terrific characterisation by an energetic cast.

Zoe Wanamaker plays Lyuba, a middle-aged woman who returns to her family home heavily in debt, only to face the prospect of having to sell the property and its treasured orchard.  The pool of guests, servants and family members each bear their own mini-dramas, and the script is fast-paced and at times almost tiring, as the characters race from topic to topic, barely pausing for breath.  Yermolay and Sharlotta in particular deliver laughs and a real freshness to the text.

The play doesn’t have the visual panache of Danny Boyle’s recent Frankenstein, burdened with staging that requires most of the cast to be on stage at once, with a lot of standing around as they listen to each other’s monologue about love/capitalism/ philosophy.  It is, however, a must-see for classical theatre lovers, as the subtle camerawork grants us the best seats in the house.

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