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'Vanya Theatre Review'

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'Vanya Theatre Review'

Chekhov’s Vanya or Scott’s Ivan?

Fleabag’s hot priest, Andrew Scott, was mesmerizing in this one-man adaptation of Chekhov’s classic play Uncle Vanya. In this extreme display of actorly gymnastics, Scott seamlessly transitions between characters, defining them cleverly through mannerisms and tics which, though sounding slightly on the nose, works brilliantly on stage. Helena, the young wife of the once celebrated screenwriter Alexander, is characterized by the constant fiddling of her necklace, sweet Sonia by her ever-present tea towel. However, because of the sheer number of characters Scott portrays, they aren’t always totally divisible, especially in the beginning, so the play can lose some coherence early on.

Though diverging from the original with its modern vernacular and anglicized names, our eponymous hero Vanya renamed Ivan, Stephens (one of the creators) did well to touch on the Chekhovian themes, though the genius of this innovative show is slightly overshadowed by the high concept of the original.

Though Scott wows us through his deeply emotional displays of the characters, the experimental nature of the production renders them slightly flimsy, as we struggle to connect with the characters long enough before Scott switches to another. But, it is a great feat, as Scott’s physicality somehow makes the stage feel busy with only him performing. Though, I would say there is one exception to this, as Scott’s display of Sonia, who is desperately in love with the weathered doctor Michael, is simply endearing with her small smile and coy embarrassment at her unrequited crush.

As well as being a brilliantly emotional play full of feeling and sentiment, it is also archly funny, full of sharp comedy and sly looks to the audience. Another who deserves commendation for this brilliant adaptation is Vize – her set design, with its bare plywood boxes and scattered props, feels unfinished. This may sound poor but it only adds to the rawness and intimacy of the show, as it feels like we are watching something grow and evolve, rather than a perfected run.

This show must be praised for its innovation, its radical concept still delivering on Chekhov’s original mediations. Both Chekhov’s brilliant ideas and characters are truly brought to life through Scott’s performance.

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