Platonov

10 Nov

People desiring but never acting.

Chekhov’s plays usually have me thinking about cowardice.

And one evening I will finally muster the courage to just get up half way through the first act and walk out.

Of course, I’m joking.

Platonov is early Chekhov, and more happens in it than usual for the master. (Perhaps too much. And there’s an atypical focus on one character; a young man and his relationships with women. Which I could patronizingly and erroneously suggest is typical of young male heterosexual writers.)

But I don’t want to overstate any of this. This is fascinating theatre, and not just because it offers an insight into the masterpieces that were to come later.

The language of Anthony Skuse’s adaptation is beautifully pitched. Grounded in the late nineteenth century origins of the play, it still speaks with a contemporary living voice.

Photo by Matthew Neville

Photo by Matthew Neville

But the primary joy of this production is the performances. Skuse has gathered an extraordinary group of actors and has created a space in which the entire cast create mesmerizing work.

I’ll mention only four. (It’s a fourteen hander. See it for a master class in acting.)

Charlie Garber gives us a thoroughly watchable Platonov. Part charisma, part moral outrage, part self loathing, it’s all leavened with just a sprinkle of humour. Many of the female characters love him, and I suspect so will the audience. As his simple, gentle wife, Matilda Ridgway is heartbreakingly phenomenal. Suzanne Pereira as Anna gives us dignity at odds with desire, and it’s a deeply moving portrait. Geraldine Hakewill plays Sofya with a tense stillness, an intriguing balance between empowerment and bewilderment.

It’s a big play, but I’ll end with reference to a single moment.

Platonov snaps “What God do you serve? What God do any of us serve?” It’s Chekhov’s challenge. Is this (and the plays that follow) an indictment of particular individuals or of an entire society?

We are flawed. The world is flawed. But do we make the world or does the world make us? This is the gloriously humane tension in Chekhov’s vision. It’s what makes him such a compelling dramatist. And it’s what this production captures so wonderfully.

Veronica Kaye

 

Platonov by Anton Chekhov

directed & adapted by Anthony Skuse

presented by Mophead & Catnip Productions

ATYP, Studio One til 22 Nov

http://www.atyp.com.au/

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