Charles Essex reviews The Cherry Orchard at the Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth
“Silly, these young people, they know nothing”. The words of Firs, the old retainer on the Ranevsky family estate.
Written by Anton Chekhov in 1904, this was prescient about the forthcoming revolution, loss of privilege and of ‘old money’. There was no old money here. The family were heavily in debt and the bank would soon foreclose on their loan and auction the estate. The family’s long history on the estate, failed relationships and the death of a child meant they were blind to the fast approaching reality.
Colin Ritchie was ideally suited as an exasperated friend Alexander, who had risen from being an abused son of a farm labourer to wealthy entrepreneur, whose feasible rescue plan but was consistently ignored by Mme Ranevsky.
This is a very wordy play and the audience shuffled in their seats but not through lack of skill by the Talisman cast. Julie-Ann Randell and Dave Crossfield captured the folly and laziness, respectively, of the Ranevsky sister and brother which had contributed to the current state of affairs. By the interval this reviewer wanted to tell Alexander to save his breath and by the end of the play felt that Lenin had the right idea in 1917 in getting rid of the bourgeoisie.
The other characters were well portrayed as dislikeable hangers-on, naïve ingénues who saw this as a new beginning or as loyal or disloyal employees. The dialogue was a tribute to Chekhov’s evocation of the folly and frailty of the human condition. There were even touches of comedy but one had to listen carefully for them to make their infrequent appearances.
It was very well acted and is just as much a play for today with people living beyond their means and refusing to see the writing on the wall.
* The Cherry Orchard runs until Saturday May 13. Call 856548 to book.