Ivanov was Chekhov’s first play, written when he was 27, and has been newly translated by Tom Stoppard. Donmar artistic director Michael Grandage directs Kenneth Branagh in the title role, and he is joined by Andrea Riseborough as Sasha and Gina McKee as Anna Petrovna (See News, 20 Jun 2008). The all-star ensemble also features: Kevin R McNally, Malcolm Sinclair, Tom Hiddleston, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Lucy Briers and Lorcan Cranitch.
Once a man of limitless promise, Ivanov (Branagh) is plunged into debt. His marriage is in crisis, and his evenings are spent negotiating loans, avoiding love affairs and fighting to resist the small town jealousies and intrigues which threaten to engulf his life.
Overnight critics went wild for the production, many proclaiming Branagh to be “at his best” in the title role. A raft of five-star reviews adorned this morning’s papers, getting the Donmar West End season off to a “flying start”. Grandage’s production was variously deemed “spot-on”, “richly intelligent”, “wondrous” and “just the West End ticket”, aided by Christopher Oram’s earthy design, Adam Cork’s “terrific” score and Paule Constable’s “exquisite” lighting. Amongst the supporting cast, Tom Hiddleston’s “priggish” doctor, Andrea Riseborough’s “sexily impetuous” Sasha and Gina Mckee’s “beautiful” portrayal of Ivanov’s Jewish wife Anna were highly praised, but there were no weak links amongst the ensemble. All round then, it appears that Ivanov is the new “must see” in the West End.
- by Theo Bosanquet
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