Any company’s decision to tackle Chekhov is a brave one and, on the whole, this production does not disappoint. It is difficult, however, not to compare it with director Mark Leipacher’s bold opening to the season and the piece lacks the edginess and artistic inventiveness of Fiesco. It could be, of course, that Chekhov simply offers less to work with and there are undoubtedly still moments of brilliance. For example, although use of the Faction’s trademark ensemble is more limited in this production, one particular scene in which the large cast sit in a perfectly straight line at a party, becoming awkwardly transfixed with something as unexciting as a spinning top, works brilliantly to highlight the empty lives.
Ranjit Bolt’s modern adaption of the text also works well and, once again, there are some superb performances. Derval Mellett’s Marsha is skillfully portrayed as bored to the point of desperation, whilst Jonny McPherson delivers a sensitive portrayal of Vershinin, her married lover who serves to relieve some of her frustration. Lachlan McCall is consistently believable as Andrei, the sisters’ weak, hapless brother, his wife Natasha (played memorably by Laura Freeman), the archetypal, pushy outsider who worms herself successfully into the family despite being hugely unpopular.
-by Helen Macdonald