The Cherry Orchard

By Anton Chekhov
Directed by Imogen de la Bere

30th June - 2nd July 2005
Maltings Arts Theatre, St Albans

2nd - 3rd September 2005
Queen Mother Theatre, Hitchin

23rd - 24th September 2005
Trestle Arts Base, St Albans

Click here to view performance photos.

Loved and performed all over the world, The Cherry Orchard was Chekhov’s last and greatest play.

It tells of an old family estate up for auction and how, with the sale, a whole way of life comes to an end.

Is it a comedy as he claimed? Or a tragedy as the great director Stanislavski insisted?

OVO presents the play as a joyous, beautiful dance through the humour and sadness of the human condition.

A vibrant acting ensemble, accompanied by a live Kletzmer band, brings OVO’s trademark innovation and imagination to our first touring production.

Essentially traditional in setting, but entirely contemporary in sensibility, OVO’s Cherry Orchard will delight the senses and touch the heart.

What the Papers Said

Cherry checks out
7th July 2005

AGE-old themes of hope and despair combined with sublime writing have ensured that the plays of Chekhov are as popular today as they were when they were written.

Yet they can still seem inaccessible to some modern-day audiences who struggle to get their heads around Russian names and the complexities of the Russian class system.

It is to the credit of OVO that their production of The Cherry Orchard, arguably Chekhov's greatest play, was as clear and easy to follow as it was.

Director Imogen de la Bere attempted to incorporate touches of humour as the playwright - who always maintained his plays were comedies - would have wanted.

And while they were only gentle touches, they made the production warmer and more user-friendly than others I have seen.

OVO, perhaps surprisingly bearing in mind their track record, kept the production in the era for which it was written and let the words speak for themselves without any gimmicks.

The result was an extremely enjoyable three-day run at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans.

The quality of the acting overall was first-rate with Adam Nichols dominating as the businessman Lopakhin who delights in the change in his fortune which enables him to purchase the Cherry Orchard.

His glee at the purchase in the face of the anguish of Sue Dyson's Lyuba, who owned the estate but had fallen into debt, was the highlight of the production.

Sue, best known as a comic actress, was perfectly cast as a woman who combines gaiety - in the old sense of the world - with despair.

Her character was in stark contrast with that of her strait-laced brother Lenya played by Tim Robinson.

Dipika Guha, a veteran of other OVO productions, was delightful as Charlotta, the governess, whose role also combined comedy with pathos.

Anna MacLeod was a coy Dunyasha, the chambermaid who imagines two men are in love with her, and Lisa White had just the right air of modesty with just a hint of passion in the character of Varya, Lyuba's adopted daughter.

OVO may be a relatively-new drama group on the local scene but it has certainly made its mark - and attracts healthy audiences.

It will have done its case no harm indeed with The Cherry Orchard which can only have won OVO more fans.


Play puts chuckles in Chekhov
7th July 2005

MY preconceptions of Anton Chekhov's play The Cherry Orchard were demolished by a compelling performance at the Mailings Arts Theatre.

As expected, it was a tale of gloomy impoverished Russian aristocrats, but what I was not prepared for was the humour which kept me smiling throughout.

My only previous experience of Chekhov was a Barbican Theatre production of The Three Sisters, a lugubrious tale of woe distinctly short on belly laughs.

But as director Imogen de la Bere reveals in her programme notes, the playwright always insisted his works were comedies. This is an aspect her production skilfully draws out with the help of some high-class acting.

The plot, such as it is, doesn't sound very comic - Ranyevskaya, a once wealthy widow, is threatened with the loss of her estate, including her beloved orchard, as she can't pay her debts. After much boo-hoo-hooing, she has to confront the inevitable and sell to Lopakhin, a nouveau riche businessman, who cuts the trees down to make room for dachas - country retreats for the emerging middle class. But the play is infinitely more subtle than appears from this crude synopsis.

The nostalgia of Ranyevskaya and her household for the good old days, rather than an excuse for tear-jerking, is lampooned as absurd sentimentalism. Far from being a villain, Lopakhin is a sympathetic character devoted to Ranyevskaya, who rescued him from poverty as a child. He illustrates the changing social world which is the constant theme of the play, written in 1904, 63 years after the emancipation of the serfs, and 13 years before the Marxist revolution.

Nothing much actually happens in The Cherry Orchard, but the interactions of 12 colourful and eccentric characters provide a continuously entertaining dialogue that kept me riveted.

Ranyevskaya's brother Gayev, for instance, is a feckless but charming aristocrat full of languid insouciant wit. Tim Robinson's performance reminded me of Nikolas Grace's portrayal of Anthony Blanche in ITV's Brideshead Revisited.

And Firs, a part masterfully handled by Dewi Williams, is a half-senile old servant, nostalgic for the good old days when everybody knew their place.

But as well as absurd figures of fun, all the characters convince as real human beings. The moments of pathos are the more moving through being cast into sharp relief by the humour.

A splendid accompaniment to this excellent production by OVO was provided by the live music.



Dunyasha, the chambermaid - Anna MacLeod
Lopakhin (Yermolay), a businessman - Adam Nichols
Yepikhodov, the estate clerk - Edmund White
Firs, the old footman - Dewi Williams
Anya, Ranyevskaya's daughter - Clare McMeel
Ranyevskaya (Lyuba), a landowner - Sue Dyson
Charlotta Ivanovna, the governess - Dipika Guha
Varya, Ranyevskaya's adopted daughter - Lisa White
Gayev (Lenya), her brother - Tim Robinson
Simeonov-Pischik, a landowner - Paul de Burton
Yasha, the young footman - Andy Mills
Trofimov (Lenya), a student - Howard Salinger
A Tramp - Steve Kennedy
Charlotta Ivanovna's dog - Jessie

The Band

Piano - Charles Aitken
Viola - Steve Kennedy
Accordion - Will Franklin
Clarinet - Edmund White

Creative Team

Consultant Director - Adam Nichols
Producer - Alison Begley
Production Assistant - Helen Armour
Technical Director - Alan D Duncan
Stage Manager - Judy Curd
Deputy Stage Manager - Marion Hammond
Assistant Stage Manager - Lisa Lloyd
Technical Stage Manager - Matt Jeffs
Lighting Designer - Phil Hamilton
Sound Designer - Dez Board
Scenic Artists - Charlotte Bohl, David Palmer
Costume Co-ordinators - Alison Belding, Imogen de la Bere
Props Co-ordinator - Judy Curd
Musical Director - Edmund White
Choreographer - Louisa Stevens
Publicity and Programme Designer - Adam Nichols
Publicity Co-ordinator - Sue Dyson
Media Co-ordinator - Lisa White