Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Things seem initially jolly at the start of Lung Ha Theatre Company’s new look at Anton Chekhov’s piece of end of the century ennui, presented in co-production with the Helsinki-based folk music department of the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts. This is despite the aching void that hangs over the increasingly empty house that provides the nearest thing to a social whirl of the army occupied town. It’s young Irina’s birthday, and her big sister Olga is going to make it as fun as can be, even if their other sibling Masha would rather sprawl herself on the sofa with studiedly bored intent.
Adrian Osmond’s new version of the play manages to pare down the sprawl of Chekhov’s original to a ninety-minute meditation on the meaning of life and the seeming lack of it in Maria Oller’s wide-open production performed by a cast of twenty on Karen Tennent’s wood-lined set.
Emma McCaffrey sets the tone as a perennially buoyant Olga, off-set by Emma Clark as the destined to be disappointed Irina. Nicola Tuxworth’s sulky Masha is only shaken into life by the allure of the big city represented by man in uniform Vershinin. There is a lightness of touch running throughout as the characters criss-cross each other in search of a key towards their own futures to fill up the emptiness. At times it resembles a latter-day sit-com that falls somewhere between Samuel Becket and Mike Leigh in its inherent sense of the ridiculous.
Adding to the overall experience is a folk-tinged score by Anna-Karin Korhonen, performed live by Irina Cenerberg, Michael Ferrie and Noora Kauppila, all students at the Sibelius Academy. This enlivens an already fast-paced interpretation of the play with a jauntiness that gives it fresh life.
The Herald, March 19th 2018