26th October 2017
Queens Hall, Cuckfield
Type of Production
Author: Dee Sharpe
Emma Gosling has done an excellent job in directing the modernist 1897 play that is Uncle Vanya; ensuring that the opposing themes of hope, despair, dreams, regrets, independence, dependence, idleness, work, beauty and plainness are played out within the tragedy and comedy of each character’s situation.
Professor Serebrakov and his beautiful young second wife Helena,are paying a lengthy visit to his estate which is run by his plain daughter Sonia and his brother in law from his first marriage, her Uncle Vanya. These two have lived frugal lives while their efforts provide the professor and his new wife with a very comfortable lifestyle. Also present is the old nurse, the professor’s late wife’s mother, an impoverished neighbour and Doctor Astrov who treats the professor’s gout. Sonia has fallen for Doctor Astrov but unfortunately he falls for her stepmother, as does her Uncle Vanya. The professor worries about his own health and comfort but not about those close to him, showing no love, warmth or even gratefulness for their many years if toil.
Paul Davey skilfully portrayed Vanya’s bumbling desperation, ruined dreams, frustration and forlorn infatuation with Helena while ensuring the audience can see beyond to the good hearted trapped soul who feels he’s left it far too late to escape. Estella Balicki playing Sonya, deftly matched him in hopelessness while demonstrating the apathy that comes with depression, and of course her unrequited love for the doctor, played by Ken Collins. He was adept at portraying this idealistic conservationist visionary, with the cynical jaded edge who falls for the young, beautiful wife of his patient. Martin Sheldon was wonderfully convincing as self-absorbed, self-centred, self-pitying grumpy Professor Serebrakov. Sharran Rigby-Smith who played Helena ably demonstrated how the woman’s own character matched the selfishness of her husband’s and also that her own boredom and idleness confined her. The comforting old nurse (Harriet Sheldon) intelligent conversationalist Maria Vasilyevna (Diana Martin) slightly shambolic dreamy Telegin (Keith Moss) and Simon Perkins as the workman/watchman played their part in creating believable characters so that the play was like watching life unfold in real time.
The lounge setting was well done and I especially liked the window view to the garden beyond. However I found a couple of the set changes took too long. Helena’s sophisticated, expensive gown shone (as intended) against the plainer more rustic costumes.
What impressed me was the careful direction which produced the atmosphere of stillness and boredom, so difficult to create and maintain, yet crucial to the play.
Well done to Cuckfield Dramatic Society in giving us the blend of humour and sadness at the heart of Uncle Vanya.