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REVIEW The Cherry Orchard at The Royal Exchange
Friday 11th May 2018 @ 13:32 by Tom Greggan

The Cherry Orchard, Chekhov’s final masterpiece, is playing at The Royal Exchange Theatre until 19 May. This co-production with Bristol Old Vic is directed by Michael Boyd, former Artistic Director of The Royal Shakespeare Company.

In this new translation by Award-winning playwright Rory Mullarkey, Kirsty Bushell (Madame Ranyevskaya) is exhilarating in the role and captivated the audience with a naturalistic performance. A simplistic stage setting designed by Tom Piper creates the ambience of the old house and romanticism of country life in Russia.

The Cherry Orchard at The Royal Exchange

The Cherry Orchard was premiered a year before the 1905 revolution in Russia but the themes of upheaval and social change are just as relevant in today’s culture. The Cherry Orchard is an observation of human behaviour and goes beyond naturalism into realism and some critics see the play as theatrical poetry that is deeply symbolic.

The play revolves around the threat of the sale of the estate and death of Madame Ranyevskaya’s son Grisha and her grief is punctuated throughout the story as she is haunted by the tragedy. This production of The Cherry Orchard superbly swoops between sadness and comedy and the audience are immersed into the emotional journey.

Unrequited love is another theme in this play as Lopakhin (Jude Owusu), the entrepreneurial son of one of Madame Ranyevskaya’s family’s serfs sets out to rescue the estate by advising her to divide the precious Orchard and rent it out. He feels inferior to the family due to his humble peasant origins. Owusu is exceptional in the role and the chemistry between him and Madame Ranyevskaya is pure gold.

Dunyasha (Emma Naomi) is exuberant and energetic. The two daughters Anya (Verity Blythe) and Vavara Mikhailovna (Rosy McEwen) contrast well in this highly complex intellectual production. Captain Catastrophe played by Jack Monaghan is magnificent in the role and also Simon Coates, Uncle (Leonid Andreyevich Gayev).

All the cast are excellent including Julius D’Silva (Boris Borisovich Simeyonov-Pischik), Joseph Hardy (Station Master), Harry Humblestone (Stranger), Togo Igawa (Firs) the Butler, Eva Magyar (Charlotte Ivanovna), Hayden McLean (Yasha), Enyi Okoronkwo (Pyotr Sergeyevich Trofimov) and the young actor playing Grisha.

By Denise Evans

Top image: Kirsty Bushell (Madame Ranyevskaya) and Jude Owusu (Lopakhin). Photo by Jon Rowley.