All Images courtesy of and copyright The Other Richard 2017
He’s back, ladies and gentlemen. We Are Chester’s Deputy Editor, James Wright headed to his usual stomping ground of Theatr Clwyd, in the picturesque market town of Mold, to sample the delights and wonders of a 120-year-old Russian tragicomedy by Anton Chekhov. And yes, there was vodka!
It’s been a while since I attended a performance in that idyllic theatrical gem located just over the Welsh border called Theatr Clwyd.
And yet, almost like going back home, it felt like I had never truly left.
There’s a lovely family feel going on between the We Are Chester and Theatr Clwyd teams, I must declare.
Admittedly, an extended, weird family where one side invites the others to watch performances and the likes, but still, there’s a special bond going on between us.
And whilst that may sound like sloppy mush, there’s actually a very prominent and relevant reason I wrote that opening paragraph; and it has everything to do with Theatr Clwyd’s latest offering, Uncle Vanya.
Set in Russia, Uncle Vanya tells the story of a family living out their days tending the lands and keeping the Serebryakov estate in order.
One day, the beneficiaries of the estate’s gains, Professor Aleksandr Serebryakov (played by Martin Turner) and his second wife Elena (played by Shanaya Rafaat), visit the family’s country home.
There, they are greeted and attended to by the nurse Marina (as portrayed by Veronica Roberts), Sian Owens’ Efimia, the ‘affectionately’ named “Waffles” aka Ilya Ilych Telyegin aka Brendan Charleson, Mama Mariya (the renowned Welsh actress Sharon Morgan), the mother of the Professor’s first wife, grandmother to Sonya (played by Rosie Sheehy), and mother to Uncle Vanya himself (the extraordinarily talented Jamie Ballard).
The family have quietly been driven mad in the countryside, with Vanya, in particular, citing his life as being wasted living in the house.
Everything seems to change, however, when Elena comes into the household, captivating Uncle Vanya and the country doctor Astrov (portrayed by Oliver Dimsdale) into all but throwing away their admittedly futile lives for a hope of being with this captivating young woman…who don’t forget is married to Aleksandr…who owns the land…that Vanya and family live on. Something tells me that that might be a key plot point in the second half.
Of course, not everything is as easy or as clear-cut as that in the world.
Sonya is equally infatuated with Astrov, and the love triangle (or should that be a square? Maybe even a pentagon?).
As Astrov is not interested in Sonya, however, her life is ruined through a variety of means.
And then there’s that climactic scene with Vanya and Aleksandr, which was arguably the best piece of acting I’ve ever, on any stage, in any theatre.
Interestingly, Uncle Vanya is described as a “comedy” and whilst there were plenty of laughs to go around, the ending was more tear-wrenching than I was expecting.
It soon devolves more into a Plight of the Proletariat than a comedy focusing on one Uncle Vanya (though I can’t stress enough just how bloody good Jamie Ballard is in this role!).
There’s twists. There’s turns. Heck, there’s even a gunshot!
Everything works in this play, and everyone brings joy to the stage, apart from when they’re crying. Of course. Hmm.
This performance of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya marks the World Première of this adaptation, as written by Welsh playwright Peter Gill. Held in Theatr Clwyd’s Emlyn Williams Theatr (the slightly smaller one just outside the bar area and the art gallery), Peter Gill’s Uncle Vanya is a splendid look into the causes and effects of what living in the middle of nowhere, drinking far too much, and definitely not having enough sex can do to one’s psyche. I’m sure we can all sympathise with that!
And it’s happening right on our doorstep. What more could you ask for?
Running through 21st September to 14th October, tickets start from as little as £5! For more information on booking, visit the Theatr Clwyd website or call the Box Office on 01352 701521.
Uncle Vanya is a joint production between Theatr Clwyd and Sheffield Theatres and is directed by Tamara Harvey.