Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Cheeky Chekhov

Just a quick note about the Chekhov week at the Hampstead Theatre. TLT went along to see Chekhov’s Vaudevilles, the first of a week’s performances/readings celebrating the Russian playwright. Superb performances of some of Chekhov’s very funny (yes, you read right, Chekhov was a very funny writer!) farces by all involved: David Horovitch, Miriam Margolyes, Steve McNeil and Michael Pennington (and playwright Michael Frayn as “the narrator” ;) ). This performance was a one-off but, by the look of the starry line-up for the rest of the week, there will be equally wonderful performances in store and, by the look of the auditorium, tickets eagerly sought. Fascinating also to hear Rosamund Bartlett, one of Chekhov’s major translators, talk about the playwright's life and the quest to renovate the writer’s home in Yalta (now the Ukraine) which has been overlooked in the “to do” list by the new Eastern European wealthy http://www.yaltachekhov.org/ 

Twist in tale as oligarch Alexander Lebedev boosts Hampstead Theatre's Chekhov home fund

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Six Degrees of Separation Review

Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare
The Old Vic, London SE1

Black and White and Red All Over

Before the net revolutionized relationships, the idea of six degrees of separation was popularized by this fascinating 1990 play inspired by a real-life story of a trickster who posed as film star Sidney Poitier’s (non-existent) son.  A New York art dealer and his wife take in a wounded stranger offering him a spare room, only to discover they are among several dupes in their social circle of a conman who has filleted information out of a male lover, a former classmate of their children.  The charge of racism, cited at one point by the couple’s self-righteous Harvard-educated daughter, is a red herring compared to more intricate veins connecting conned and conman.  On one side, the trickster (Obi Abili)  living on the edge whose credentials could have been easily checked in a published biography.  On the other, the art dealer (Anthony Head) with wife (the excellent Lesley Manville) in tow gambling on using borrowed cash from an ambiguous source to broker a deal.  In fact, the six degrees theory is a glib rationalization of a far more confused kaleidoscope where modern life’s contradictions,  evasions and literary self-consciousness allow the strained sophisticates to want to believe in the purported idealism of a  fake.  Acting in a preview performance of this classy revival held attention but TLT  found the production curiously unaffecting, more red faces all round than viciousness and sordidness, not helped by some bland but showy male nudity.  So, while the production’s emotional investment should have remained high for a Facebook and Twitter generation, just about an amber light.