Year: 1985

Title of the play: The Cherry Orchard

Author: Anton Chekhov Trans. Mike Alfreds with Lilia Sokolov

Director: Mike Alfreds

Others in the Cast: Eleanor Bron, Selina Cadell, Simon Dutton, Sheila Hancock, Greg Hicks, Jonathan Hyde, Roy Kinnear, Julie Legrand, Hugh Lloyd, Ian McKellen, Claire Moore, Peter Needham, Laurance Rudic, Tristram Wymark

Company/Event: National Theatre Company Ian McKellen-Edward Petherbridge Group

Theatre and location: Cottesloe Theatre, London

Other productions of the same play:  1986 - His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen; International Theatre Festival Blackstone Theatre, Chicago

Plot summary: The surviving members of an ancient land-holding family come back from Paris to find that their country place is about to be sold at auction for debts. A family friend and former peasant, now a prosperous merchant, suggests that they cut down the cherry orchard and build little cottages which they can rent out and thus pay off their debt; but family pride and a general spirit of procrastination will not permit them to consent to such a solution. In their natures, sorrow over trouble and levity over responsibilities are inextricably mixed. They can take nothing seriously. They argue and talk it all over in their own charming fashion until finally the house is sold over their heads and the sound of the axe is heard in the beloved orchard. Summary from Theatre Database   

Peth’s role: Gayev


Indeed, in spite of the scope (Mike) Alfreds allowed his actors, they did not indulge in the sort of gratuitous sensationalism that characterized Charles Sturridge's Seagull (1985) or Elijah Molinsky Three Sisters (1987). Alfreds' resistance to such affectations was exemplified by Petherbridge's interpretation of Gayev. Playing down the miming of the billiard shots, his distinctly half-hearted gesture suggested that this is a family joke of which Gayev is now weary. This was consistent with a portrayal of Gayev as much less whimsical than the eulogies to the bookcase and to Nature have traditionally been understood to imply. Petherbridge's performance revealed that it is others, particularly his sister and Firs, who have case Gayev in the role of silly brother and uncle. - Chekhov on the British stage, By Patrick Miles

Sheila Hancock’s Ranyevskaya is volatile, capricious, flirty and clearly dotes on her brother; the moment I shall remember is when he announces he’s going to work in a bank and she snaps back at him, “Stay as you are, you're not up to it." It is ruthlessly honest, very Russian and looks as if it is going to break Edward Pethberbridge's Yellow Book Gayev in two. Michael Billington, The Guardian, 12 December 1985

In director Mile Alfreds's hands there's a greater stress on comedy than usual. But the astonishing thing is that all 17 actors seem actually to have been these characters - from the day they crept from the cradle - living their lives, not performing their actions.

Times - Feb 10, 1986 They are superbly natural, supremely human. Their individual foibles are merely part of rounded, complete people. - The Bryan Times - Feb 10, 1986 


Production details: Here 

Related links:


The full cast of the Cherry Orchard, in costume. 

Original pic here

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