British playwrite David Hare
For those of you not familiar with Anton Chekhov's first completed play, IVANOV it serves as comic tragedy. Ivanov is set in the late 1880's central Russia. Our hero Nikolai Ivanov, is what is referred to as a progressive farmer. He has everything going for him, intelligence, looks, lots of land and a wife who would has done anything for him. Unfortunately, he has made some rather unwise personal and professional decisions. He is heavily in debt, beset by depression, trapped in a failed marriage to a woman who happens to be Jewish and seriously ill with TB. Did I mention the snickering who admire, pity and scoff at Ivanov behind his back. In the next breathe berating poor Anna, simply because she is Jewish. Poor Ivanov and Anna, two rather dismal but decent beings trapped in lives that show no signs of relief, hope or escape for either one of them. Now surely a play to spend a delightful evening at the theatre for! However, not recommended for those already in state of depression or those hoping for rollicking Lloyd-Weber musical! In sense IVANOV is almost a morality play. It deals with class, bigotry
I have to admit, the first words out of my mouth when it was discovered that the Almeida would be taking on IVANOV was: 'Quick! Get tickets before it closes!' Why that reaction you ask? Did I really want to see another production with Tony award winning actor Ralph Fiennes in the role of very depressed human? You bet your domestic feline's cat nip-laced squeezy toys I would! However if you think this is going to be drool-laced starry-eyed review forget it! Even I have my pride, sense of decorum, and I'm dangerous with a diss! No drooling, but certainly no dissing here.
Mr. Fiennes as Ivanov, is more than up to speed in the role. He effectively relays his loss of youth, his misery of a failed career, marriage, surcombs to the notion at he is really not the open-minded he led himself to be. He has sadly, given up on life! The trails of life have worn him thin. So much so you hope you never have to spend any amount of time with Ivanov in an elevator, stuck between floors, on your way to a job interview or wedding! You just want to shake him and yell 'Hey, there's something you can do about that depression Mister!" (Nothing a good therapist and massive doses of prescribed medication couldn't help!) However, why spoil a perfectly wonderful evening at the theatre?
Harriet Walter(Sense and Sensibility) is absolutely heart breaking as Anna. She manages to convince the audience that she is ill by her pale appearance but with her voice, that rattle of from within her throat could convince you that she truly does have TB! .
Walter's Anna wears her loneliness, like a well worn merrit badge. Anna has given up wealth ,her family, religion, and her health for the man she loves (one almost expects to hear Tammy Wynette belt out 'Stand By You Man any minute) With all of her frailties, Anna maintains her self-respect and love of Ivanov.with dignity! We realize very early on that Ivanov does not return love just his pity. She is in pain, but does not pity herself. However, it is Ivanov's sense of outrage towards that in a sense he aloofness, self-hatred and will ravage Anna far more than the TB itself!
Justine Waddell as young Sasha. is cool and mature for her 19 years, yet still young enough to have a sense of idealism to believe that maybe she can save the world. At least Ivanov's! Sasha believes she is Ivanov's salvation. She has loved him for as long as she can remember. Sasha seems to think that she is the only person who seems to understand Ivanov's agony. She is, yes, *the other younger woman*.
Don't give up! IVANOV is not a play filled with people verbally, emotionally or physically being up on each other! Well, then again... There are some excellent lighter moments. Even Nicoli Ivanov has his moments! It is Chekvov showing people at our pettinesses in a most remarkably humourous way!
The actors in the production lived up to Hare's wonderful adaptation. Bill Patterson (Truly, Madly Deeply) as Pavel Lebedev is Ivanov's former classmate, close friend, now debtor is caught between his friendship and affection for Ivanov and his sense of shame of having to ask for payment long over-due loan, egged on by his rather *thrifty* wife Zinaida Savishna portrayed by Rosemary McHale.
Director Jonathan Kent respects his actors and his audience! The wonderful thing or annoying thing about Kent's approval to let his actors experiment and breathe life into their characters is that each time you see a Kent production it is a pleasant surp Mr. Hare gives us a wonderful adaptation! What more can I say?
Spitting Row Range!
For those of you who have never attended an Almeida Theatre production at the Almeida itself will find it to be rather, well not exactly what you would expect (especially after seeing a production at the Barbicon)! In case you're wondering what it's like to sit within inches of the stage at a London theatre, it's wonderful fun! People actually do fall asleep, snore and