Black Swan Theatre Company
Heath Ledger Theatre
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Far and away the star of this fine production is Rebecca Davis as Masha, one of Chekhov’s most fascinating characters. Davis gives a totally convincing interpretation. Here, both word and gesture are faultless in evoking Masha’s neurotic, alcoholic personality which hangs over the production like a grey blanket. There is a sense of barely contained hysteria that is altogether persuasive.
Greta Scacchi, too, is no less convincing as the celebrated, self-absorbed actress Irina Arkadina. Breathtakingly indifferent to the problems of others, extraordinarily self-centred – and miserly to boot – she is wilfully blind to the concerns of her own daughter and her sad son, rubbishing his recently written play, utterly indifferent to the humiliation that he experiences as a result. Andrew McFarlane is a consistently gentle presence as Dr Dorn.
In a smaller role, Michael Loney is altogether persuasive as Irina’s brother Sorin, a bachelor unfulfilled in life who, on stage, departs for the hereafter as quietly as he has lived his rather drab life.
In a debut role, Leila George as Nina is a pleasing, word-perfect stage presence in a play within the play but rather more emphatic voice projection as required; it was too low-key in decibel terms.
This is a finely nuanced production which, as it unfolds, draws the viewer ineluctably into Chekhov’s unique world where, invariably, all manner of tensions and misunderstandings seethe below a sometimes seemingly placid surface.
Kate Cherry’s production unfolds seamlessly, enhanced by Jon Buswell’s lighting design and Fiona Bruce’s costumes.