The Cherry Orchard has been given an absurdist reboot – with blood transfusions, a beach party and a bed-hopping sex maniac. And thanks to Chelsea’s oligarch, it’s coming to Britain
Oh my goodness, what have they done to The Cherry Orchard? The grand ball has become a beach party. Madame Ranevskaya has a noose around her neck. The entire ensemble are receiving blood transfusions. And Lopakhin has become a sex maniac who begins the play in bed with the maid. There isn’t a samovar in sight – or even a cherry orchard, for that matter.
This is the Pushkin Drama Theatre’s production, which is on its way to Britain. I caught it in Moscow just before Christmas – and was somewhat taken aback. It is Chekhov as absurdist drama, played on a raked stage with minimal props. In this portrait of a dysfunctional family and a neurotic society, Lopakhin is a youthful oligarch in love with money – and with the glamorous Madame Ranevskaya. Both are much younger than we are used to seeing them in the UK, but the two leads – Viktoriya Isakova and Alexander Petrov – insist this is faithful to Chekhov.
Chekhov brings to mind John Lennon’s lyric, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’