Over at the Bedlam, Chekhov is being deconstructed. Los Angeles-based company Theatre Movement Bazaar have wrestled with the Russian playwright's classic tragicomedy, Uncle Vanya and created a beautifully thrilling theatrical experience.
This is Vanya as you have never seen it before, with the women's absence transforming the four chief male characters into sweating, brooding obsessives who carefully roam the stage like caged animals, riling each other up, sinking vodka shots, and lamenting their lost lives. Whilst they brilliantly capture the Chekhovian spirit, the company's own unique voice very much dominates this 65 minute spectacle.
Cleverly, not a moment is wasted: the characters set the stage at the beginning themselves (with the help of rhythmically deadpan stage manager, Kevin Chambers) and even include a sequence which acts as a reminder for us to switch off mobile phones. What follows is surely one of the most inventive and engrossing performances here in Edinburgh.
The multi-talented cast own their individual roles, with quirky physical tics and expressions that become increasingly exaggerated, but it is as an ensemble that these performers really thrive. At the heart of the piece, physical theatre pulsates with exhausting energy and an intense precision, but this production also benefits from startlingly crisp, funny, and sometimes poignant dialogue too.
It could be mildly confusing if you aren't familiar with the play but there is enough here to satisfy Chekhov novices; whether marvelling at the slickness and sinchronicity of the performers, catching a whiff of the overpowering testosterone that fills the theatre, or watching as the men twist and whirl through frenetic Russian-inspired dance routines.
At turns romantic, moving, intelligent, bizarre, sombre, daft, beautiful, and humorous, I cannot recommend this show too highly. Subtle mood lighting, and a varied, impressive soundscape put the cap on a glorious afternoon. As a gloomy pall descends over the final image of the men settling down to a hideously repetitive existence of paperwork, never has banality seemed more extraordinary.
- Adam Elms