1 February 2014

Anton Chekhov's Vaudevilles at the Jermyn Street Theatre


I nearly missed this treat.

I got an email promoting something else at the Jermyn Street Theatre and when I went on to their website I found this. The Anton Chekhov name would have been enough for me to book it and this also had Michael Frayn's name too. I feel a sense of local loyalty towards Frayn, he lives just up the road and went to the same local school as my younger son, and he writes good plays as well.

I was a little surprised that the theatre had allocated seating (it did not the last time that I was there) but pleased that my seat was in the middle of the front row (A5). Even more so as the Indian meal took longer than hoped/expected and I did not get to the theatre until about ten minutes before the show started by which time the place was pretty full.

This was a different Chekhov from the one that I am used to that usually ends with a gun shot off stage and the former peasants moving in to the family mansion.

This was funny. Very funny and funnily done.

There were, I think, four short plays and two short stories.

In the first a famous writer was interrupted by a woman who had written a play that she wanted to read to him. All of it. Then. He made excuses but she was determined and refused to leave or to let him leave on any of his pressing appointments. He got more and more desperate and finally resorted to extreme measures.

In another a man inherited a country estate (familiar Chekhov territory) and went to visit his new neighbour only to find her a widow dressed in mourning and determined to spend the rest of her life in her house, wearing black and thinking about her husband, even though we learnt that he had not been good or faithful to her. The visitor is attracted by her feisty determination to maintain her way of life, falls in love with her and proposes.

In the final play, a man called to ask a young lady to marry him having first cleared it with her father. Before he proposed they made small talk about their respective estate and he said that he had plans for a wood only for her to say that the wood was part of her estate. They had a furious row. Then they had another furious row over whose dog was the better. The father then appears, the lady learnt the purpose of the man's visit, her mood softened and she agreed to his proposal. And then they rowed about the dogs again.

It was all very charming and wonderfully acted. I laughed a lot at the pig-headed and pathetic characters and their silly words.

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