Critics' Circle review The Cherry Orchard

Super Talented

Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard has been adapted by Simon Stephens for this contemporary production that will serve as director and artistic director Giles Croft’s last play at the Nottingham Playhouse. It tells the story of a family returning to their estate in Russia with the threat of it being sold off looming over them when a man who used to work for them comes up with a solution. The rewriting was very cleverly done, anyone would’ve mistaken it for a modern play rather than being over a hundred years old, and all the characters were made so distinct through their language meant it was very interesting to watch. I also felt the themes of having to leave a place that means so much to you resonated as Croft’s own feelings as he leaves the Nottingham Playhouse after 18 years.

The characters and portrayal of them by the super talented cast was my favourite thing about the show, they were all fascinating characters with so much depth and authenticity, I felt sucked into the world of the play. I thought Sara Stewart as Madame Lyubov Ranevskaya and Babirye Bukilwa as Varya particularly stood out for their strong characters that stayed emotionally present through every second of the piece. I also enjoyed the use of the dancers and other company cast for the party scene slightly off stage as this was a very creative way of showing the party and created beautiful moving shadows on stage.
Designer Tim Meacock and Lighting Designer Steph Bartle also did an amazing job creating the inside of the mansion that illustrated their fall from wealth. I also really liked how pieces of set were gradually laid off to the side, opening up the stage and depicting the worsening fate of the house.

Overall I would recommend this play to an adult audience for a night of wonderful theatre. It’s a sad farewell to see Giles Croft leave but I have loved seeing his work over the past 6 years and this play exemplifies his skill as a director.

A review by Maddy Chapman

Chekhov and a Cherry

A cherry, often a symbol of sadness,
Bleeds red, sticky juice when pressured, pushed.
Blossom forms like a cluster of bubbles;
Ethereal, ephemeral, exquisite.

The solid, central stone, surrounded by a swarm of ruby lips
Kissing, is stoically isolated.
The facade of a shiny, smooth surface
Encases a tart, dark taste.

Crisp, potent flavours are released with each bite
While its particles work to shade, stain the teeth.
Its support is painfully thin;
One delicate stem attached from within.

This tarnished one, slightly bruised, no longer displaying perfection
Becomes unwanted, tainting, festered.
This outcast is hardly different, still succulent and delectable
Yet why is it that hands hover, glide and opt for the rounder, glossier one?

A cherry, often a symbol of sadness,
Bleeds red, sticky juice when pressured, pushed

A poem by Francesca Lees

The Cherry Orchard- Not so sweet?

Giles Croft has been working at Nottingham Playhouse for 18 years. After producing many magnificent pieces, I am sad to say that this shall be his last. As a man who has directed so many acclaimed pieces, does this one stand as his last great masterpiece?
I don’t think so.

Giles spoke to Critics Circle before seeing ‘The Cherry Orchard’ he told us the play is usually a much longer piece- sometimes stretching over 4 hours, honestly, it shows. I don’t know if there was key details missing; whether my own views on business and capitalism skewed my experience, but the story made no sense. Without spoiling anything, I’ll run it off real quick – something bad is going to happen, solutions to said bad thing is offered but not excepted it is hard as audience to feel sad for the characters in crisis.

And it’s not like it matters in the end anyway. At the end all the characters have a positive resolution – getting rich, falling in love or moving to greener pastures. It seems as if there was no point to having a bad thing happen as everyone is fine in the end.

For a play by Anton Chekhov, Chekhov’s gun is of remarkable absence. There are 2 guns shown in multiple scenes in the play, and neither of them shoot anyone. Someone dies, but it’s played for – of all things – comic effect. The entire play seems to not know what it’s doing.

The characters were unlikable as was the set – which, while distinct, missed the effect they were going for. Was it bad as Giles Croft’s last piece? I suppose not.

A review by Evan Gwynne

The Cherry Orchard

Cherries fall from the tree…

Cherries fall from the tree,
Falling during heartbreak,
Falling after tragedy,
Falling when there’s no-one left living in the house, except one.

But why? Why do the cherries fall?
The cherries fall when a heart has been broken;
Two people, once united are now strangers in the world.
The cherries fall because people’s actions impact others,
In a bad or good way, depending on who they are.
The cherries fall when there’s nothing left for the tree to stay alive for,
Except a little old man who will die alone, locked in the house until the spring. Forgotten. Abandoned.

The house is still.
Nothing alive in the end.
No hope or happiness.
Just misery and mystery.

A review by Kristina Gresty

A New Beginning

The Cherry Orchard is a comic/ tragic story based show.

On the 7th November, the show arrived at the Nottingham Playhouse. The show is directed by Giles Croft and the original play is by Anton Chekhov. Anton Chekhov was slowly dying alone of a disease called tuberculosis, because of this he kept his wife Olga away from him as he didn’t want to infect her. Anton Chekhov subtitled his show as “a comedy in four acts.”

The Cherry Orchard story revolves around a family and their estate that is in debt. Throughout the story we are told there are ways to resolve this problem of debt but they refuse as the estate holds a great importance in the family – beauty and representation of the past. We discover the reasons behind the importance of the Cherry Orchard later on in the show and realise the greater importance of decisions that have to be made.

The best part about the story is how you can convince people that there are better things in life to focus on and to cherish our memories and not to dwell on them.

The set had a ruined look, a broken ladder and foldable doors to represent it being broken and trapped.

Anya was one of my favourite characters in the show as she represented the life outside the house, tried her best to please everybody and was a calm and innocent seventeen-year-old. The character stood out to me most when she reassures Lubov Ranevskaya that losing one of their beloved things is also a chance for a new life/ generation.

One of my favourite parts in the show was the dance scene. The dance scene had the main actors and some extra actors from the drama club called the Ensemble. I enjoyed their little chorused dance and how they swiftly exited back onto the main stage to carry on acting.

I very much enjoyed this production and think that it will be a big hit for mature audiences.

I would love to see more plays by this director.

A review by Noor

An Interesting Experience

The Cherry Orchard is a play about moving on. This is very topical, as Giles Croft is leaving the playhouse after 18 years of being the art director. Giles also believes the play is relevant to a modern audience, representing the political changes happening around the world, whilst also illuminating the political changes in Russia at the time. It is about accepting change and living and continuing in spite of it. This theme clearly resonates with Giles, and is something every human being can relate to.

Anton Chekhov, the playwright, came from the humble beginnings of a poor Russian household in Taganrog. His father was a grocer and was the third of six surviving siblings, therefore the idea of money struggles in this play could possibly be a reflection of his early family experiences. His father left for Moscow when his business failed, leaving Chekhov to finish his studies at the age of 15. The moment in the play in which Ranevskaya moves to Paris, leaving her daughters, could have been inspired by this.

The Cherry Orchard is about a brother and sister returning to their dilapidated family home after years of being away. They find it is about to be auctioned because they cannot afford to keep it, due to their neglect and frivolous attitude to money. There is much discussion about how to save the estate, the most prominent idea being Lopakhin’s. From a family of former serfs, Lopakhin has become a wealthy businessman; he suggests that building cottages on the site of the famous cherry orchard itself will provide the household with significant income. However, this is strongly opposed by Ranevskaya and her brother. The reminiscing of happier times – nostalgia – is a recurring theme in the play.

There was a modern costume choice for the characters, as opposed to the traditional dress of early 20th century Russia. I believe this allows an audience greater potential to understand and relate to the characters, making it a more enjoyable experience. My favourite character was Firs as he provided the majority of the humour; moments of humour and light are essential in such an intricate play, as it provides a balance.

The set design was outstanding and the way in which it was used – parts of it being gradually dismantled in each act – personified Ranevskaya’s loss and internal conflict, as well as being a physical representation of change and new order. By the end of the play, the set was reduced to the bare minimum; the starkness equipping the final, tragic scene with a dark atmosphere.

Overall, I found The Cherry Orchard very enjoyable and interesting. The dialogue was quite complex and the jokes were of a more mature nature, therefore I believe the play is suitable for a slightly older audience.

A review by Olivia Rolls

The Cherry Orchard

It is fitting that Giles Croft, the long-running Artistic Director for Nottingham Playhouse, chose Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard as his last production at the theatre, considering this was the last of Chekhov’s plays which the playwright saw performed before he died later that year, in 1904.

The set was simple, yet effectively so, focusing on the nursery and drawing attention to how run-down the structure has become. The choice of remaining in this room is also important since the story is very much about fighting against change in a world that is demanding it. People talk to different pieces of furniture as though they were relations, as they reminisce about their childhood and they are able to look out of the window towards the audience in order to gaze upon the historic cherry orchard, discussing the difficulties facing them. The ability to move the panels representing the walls becomes very powerful during the second half of the play as we are able to see backstage, bringing attention to how the façade everybody has put up has been stripped clean and we can see them as they really are.

Every single one of the actors was able to bring to life Chekhov’s iconic bend of comedic elements with a tragic storyline. Even as everything is crumbling around them, we are still able to laugh at their little mannerisms and phrases. The costume changes were subtle and barely noticeable up until the point when their entire appearance changed, which is very much in keeping with the theme of the play of trying to deny change, even as it is still happening around them.

The casting choices were perfect for this play as everyone was able to make grand gestures and then all of a sudden switch to subtle placement of their hand, as what and who they are talking to and about changes the way they would behave around them. For example, when John Ellington’s character Lopakhin is making a big speech about the birthday of the ancient wardrobe in the nursery – as he is addressing everyone, he uses a big booming voice and sweeping gestures, but then becomes a lot more delicate as he talks directly to his niece. The decision not to do Russian accents was a very good one, since Chekhov’s plays can be difficult enough to follow without having to work your way around an accent.

As I said, a Chekhov play can be difficult to follow but it is well worth the investment of following the story. No matter what, you may laugh and perhaps cry as we are introduced to difficulties that are inherent in the human condition, which is why he will remain powerful for generations to come.

A review by Rachael Wells

The Cherry Orchard

The Cherry Orchard is about a family who are forced to sell their house because they can’t afford to pay off the debt. The story shows the family saying goodbye to the cherry orchard and to the house.

I personally didn’t enjoy the play and found it quite boring. In my opinion there wasn’t really a story behind it so I found it hard to connect with the piece.

Although the story wasn’t the best, I thought every actor on the stage did a very good job, especially Kenneth Alan Taylor who played the comedic butler. He really livened up the stage and received several laughs from the audience.

The set was very interesting and quite unique. I felt the way they took the set apart throughout the play was very clever and effective in showing the destruction of the house.

I think the Director, Giles Croft, did an excellent job and made the piece a lot better. It was his final play at the Nottingham Playhouse and although it wasn’t one of his best, I think he still did a good job.

In conclusion, I didn’t connect with the play at all. However I have spoken to several other people who saw the performance and they all found it very good, so I think the play just wasn’t for me.

I would recommend the Cherry Orchard to older people rather than teenagers, as I believe they will have a better connection with the story.

A review by Ryan Dickson