16 May 2011

Uncle Vanya at the Arcola Theatre

Having seen, and thoroughly enjoyed, Chekhov in Hell at the Soho Theatre it only seemed sensible to go and see a Chekhov play, even if it meant going to Dalston to do so.

The Arcola Theatre is charm personified. It's an industrial brick shell in which some functional seating has been constructed. The entrance is through a cafe and bar area that looks as though it's run by a charity such is the lack of any attempt to make it look cool. They do a nice latte and cranberry flapjacks so that was my dinner sorted.

A few steps take you up to the theatre and then a lot more steps take you down again. I kept with tradition and bagged a seat in the front row preferring to watch the action close up and at the normal level rather than looking down on it.

The Arcola Theatre is a thrust, or three quarter round, stage. That is the audience are on three sides. I like stages like this where the action comes in to the audience and it's good to see so many theatres set up like this or something similar.

This closeness is particularly effective with emotional dramas, like Uncle Vanya.

The play shows us a summer on a Russian estate where Uncle Vanya is the manager to the owner, his dead sister's husband who now has a trophy bride about the age of his daughter. We also have some more estate workers and a visiting doctor. They spend the evening talking while we watch and soak up the emotion.

There is a lot of unhappiness in their lives and a phenomenal amount of unrequited love. The young bride does not love her husband but is loved by two others one of whom is loved by Uncle Vanya's niece. This is not the recipe for a happy ending.

But nor is the story that unhappy either. There are some good jokes along the way, some anger too, but the overall feeling is of disappointment of what life has to offer. Only their trust in a better afterlife gives them cause for rejoicing.

The suggestion that life is bad but it's all we've got has come up in several plays that I've seen recently but it's going to good plays that say that that proves that it's not true. If you see what I mean.

Uncle Vanya is superbly delivered on all counts and I could not fault it.

And the journey to/from darkest Dalston was easier than expected, I even bumped in to somebody that I know. I tried to bump in to another but he had left the bar at Dalston Roof Park a few days earlier!

The Arcola Theatre has joined my collection of small local theatres that I keep an enthusiastic eye on with the intention of going there fairly regularly.

1 comment:

  1. I ventured into Dalston for the first time last night to see this play. And it was a trip worth making, thanks to this lovely production of Chekhov's play. And like you, I shall also be keeping an eye on upcoming productions at the Arcola Theatre.

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