Leamington theatre’s Vanya brings endurance, ecology and a touch of farce

Uncle Vanya, Loft Theatre, Leamington. On until Saturday (June 15). Box office: 0844 493 4938.

Tuesday, 11th June 2013, 10:27 am
James Wolstenholme as Dr Astrov and Chloe Orrock as Sonya in the Loft's production of Uncle Vanya.
James Wolstenholme as Dr Astrov and Chloe Orrock as Sonya in the Loft's production of Uncle Vanya.

Lifelong Chekhov fan William Wilkinson not only directs this classic, but has also taken the liberty of re-interpreting parts of Uncle Vanya, a play he insists should never been staged in a stuffy way with its melancholia not balanced out by the human farce lurking beneath every line.

And it must have worked because I did come away from this production with perhaps a better understanding of the piece than I got from a professional performance at the Belgrade a couple of years ago.

So perhaps this was Chekhov for beginners.

Certainly the director looked to an early American translation of the original and felt confident enough to change the odd phrase.

With master works like this, you can’t help hunting for some deeper analogy on the state of Mother Russia locked into the human endeavours and loves labours lost of the central characters, all high experienced Loft performers.

No suprises that Tim Willis makes a terrific job of the tortured Vanya himself, but it’s so hard to tear your eyes away whenever Zoe Faithfull (Yelena) appears on stage looking divine in yet another mouthwateringly elegant gown.

Without the dazzling Yelena there’s time to study sad little Sonya (Chloe Orrock) whose yearning for the doctor (James Wolstenholme) tears at your heartstrings.

There’s a litte guitar playing from Michael Rayns (Ilya) to enhance the set with its samovar boiling all day, domestic light fitting dangling centre stage and languorous swing in the ‘garden’ outside.

And whilst the director insists there is no hidden message, what is amazing is how Chekhov’s doctor is warning about the dangers of chopping down trees and the need to preserve our environment back in 1896.

A classic work, well worth seeing.

Barbara Goulden