Monday, January 30, 2012

Time waits for no one


It was funny to read Ivan Bunin's comments on The Cherry Orchard.  He criticized Chekhov for making so much of an orchard when it was impossible to grow much of anything in the region he described, and that the land would have been of little value to a speculator like Lopakhin. It seems Bunin, like many others, had a tendency to take Chekhov literally, when the play was intended as a comedy.

Stanislavsky once again staged the play as a historic drama, taking the role of Gaev himself and casting Lopakhin as an unsympathetic local businessman intent on wresting the estate from poor Madame Ranevskaya.  Chekhov apparently didn't see Lopakhin as good or bad, but rather someone who was sympathetic to the woman and was trying to work out the best deal for her, but she and her brother simply couldn't see past their rose-tinted glasses, imagining the estate in its former glory rather than sad state of affairs that now existed.


Not surprisingly, later Soviet versions played up Lopakhin and cast Lyubov Adreievna and Leonid Anreieveitch as anachronistic beings forever trapped in their own world.  Varya is the sensible daughter and Anya the hopelessly naive one.  Vladimir Vysotsky even took a theatrical turn in The Cherry Orchard in 1974, lending his charismatic presence to Lopakhin.


Foreign versions, like this 1962 adaptation by Michel Saint-Denis with a young Judy Dench as Anya, favored the nobility.  John Gielgud offers a very dashing version of Gaev, and poor Lopakhin is reduced to the periphery.  The most interesting thing is that Dame Judy Dench returned to play Madame Ranevskaya in this 1981 production.

There is this Russian version, directed by Anna Chernakova in 1993.  After some interesting archival logging footage, the story starts with Lopakhin tending a fire and reminiscing of a time the Madame came to his aid, as in the play.  She did a follow-up to this film in 2010, entitled Death in Pince-Nez, which is reviewed in KinoKultura.  There is also this adaptation by Sergei Ovcharov, simply entitled The Garden, which he produced in 2008.


Another recent cinematic version is one directed by Mihalis Kakogiannis in 1999, starring Charlotte Rampling and Alan Bates as Madame Ranevskaya and Gaev.

Tom Stoppard also takes a turn with The Cherry Orchard, teaming up with Sam Mendes for this modern British theatrical production at the BAM in 2009. Stoppard and Mendes apparently try to tie Chekhov to Beckett.

The lead photo is from a production at the Dundee Rep, directed by Vladimir Bouchler in 2009.  Take your pick.

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