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Chekhov Shorts

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
3 stars
For a theatre company that’s ostensibly an enabling body for performers with learning disabilities, Lung Ha’s have never been shy on ambition. Following their large scale collaboration with Grid Iron, the science-fiction styled Huxley’s Lab, these two chamber pieces adapted from stories by the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Russian master might, one suspect, expose any deficiencies in the Lung Ha’s aesthetic. Under the guidance of director Maria Oller, however, and assisted by Jenna Watt, nothing could be further from the truth.

Romance With a Double Bass finds a musician who takes a dip in a nearby stream caught alongside a similarly inspired Damsel with his pants down and at the mercy of a knicker-snatching thief. The Two Volodyas finds the glamorous Sofya torn between two lovers both with the same name, but offering her completely different worlds. While her husband is dependable, the allure of a terminal student becomes the ultimate adventure, even as Sofya only finds real salvation in a nunnery.

There’s a pared-down ambiguous wit both of the originals and of Carol Rocamora’s dramatisations, which lay bare the deceptive simplicity of each yarn and are here accentuated by Wendy Weatherby’s live cello playing. The first piece may be little more than a one-liner, but delivers its dramatic sleight of hand with a lightness of touch only the unreliable lock of the double bass case undermines. The Two Volodyas, on the other hand, is a heartbreakingly complex look at choice, with Sofya, played with an emotional bravery by Nicola Tuxworthy as a wounded precursor of some of Chekhov’s most similarly troubled female characters in a last gasp Troika ride to end them all.

The Herald, November 1st 2010

ends

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