Sunday, 4 May 2014

Uncle Varick

Village Theatre, East Kilbride
Neil Cooper
Three stars
A smashed-up gold-coloured picture frame surrounds the front of the
stage for Rapture Theatre's revival of John Byrne's 1960s update of
Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. It's as if the action that follows behind it in
Michael Emans' production is that of a dust-laden and damaged old
master that's been left at the back of a junk shop, out of time and
past its best. This is exactly the state that  Jimmy Chisholm's Varick,
his niece Shona and a community wrapped up in their collective torpor
find themselves in at the start of Michael Emans' production, trapped
as they are in their rural idyll in north-eastern Scotland.

The times, however, are a changing, as the arrival of Shona's boorish
art critic father Sandy and his swingingly young bride Elaine searching
for the shock of the new makes clear. Even local whipping boy Willie
John has worked up a few incongruous-sounding Beatles numbers into his
act. It's these tensions between old and new and town and country that
have always formed the backbone of Chekhov. Things are heightened even
more here by references to a book Varick calls 'The Female Enoch' as
all onstage flirt, make clumsy passes at each other, fall for someone
they shouldn't or else remain oblivious to the affections of others.

Nowhere is this seen better than in George Anton's dissatisfied
doctor's almost liaison with Selina Boyack's equally bored Elaine in a
production that exposes all the shallow pretensions of a London set in
search of cheap thrills. It's those left behind to pick up the pieces,
however, who capture the full tragi-comic pathos of the lifetime of
disappointment that fuels the play.

The Herald, May 2nd 2014

ends

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