Uncle Vanya was first published in 1897 and had its premiere in Moscow in 1899, performed by the Moscow Art Theatre under the direction of Konstantin Stanislavski.
The play focuses on the visit of an elderly professor and his young wife Elena to the rural estate which supports their city dwelling lifestyle. Two friends, Vanya-the brother of the professor’s late first wife and the controller of the estate and Astrov-the local doctor, both end up falling for the charms of Elena. Sonya, the professor’s daughter by his first wife, is hopelessly in love with the doctor but her feelings are unmatched. Tempers flare and drama ensues as the professor announces his plans to sell the estate allowing Vanya to spiral into a madness offering tormented bawling and even a gunfight!
This new production written by Peter Gill and directed by Tamara Harvey of Chekhov’s doom-tinged comedy is set in the round, allowing for the feeling of immersion as an audience member, particularly during each characters’ soliloquy. We feel we are let in on the action, surrounding the players; close emotionally as well as physically. Each scene cleverly switches from outside to in and we are treated to some glorious pieces of silent acting as the characters themselves subtly manoeuvre the set to allow transitions (for example we hear claps of thunder and rainfall and a handful of actors swiftly grab chairs and rugs to ‘save them from getting wet’). The design of the piece, in this way, is very simple and yet we could look so much further into its meaning. Throughout the entire production there is an overhanging tree which could have been placed simply to remind us where we are. Could it, on the other hand, be symbolic of the overhanging, inevitable destruction in the piece?
The destruction of man and oneself is reflected in the frequent discussions of the desolation of the Earth’s forests. We cannot fail to spot the implications that humankind may not be KIND at all and that the dissatisfaction in our lives comes not only from ones own failings but from the failings of others to encourage success and happiness. We see love in all forms; love for family (as much as we may often speak ill of them or even wish then ill!), the love of nature, love of home, romantic love and even love unrequited but it appears that love brings with it sadness, frustration, sorrow and even utter despair!
Despite this, the play provides many moments of humour-mainly gleaned from the excellent characterisation of the title character by Jamie Ballard who portrays Vanya with just the right amount of comedy and tragic poise. This production has been cast superbly but special mention must also go to Rosie Sheehy as Sonya who plays the innocence and the pain of unreturned love beautifully, to Shanaya Rafaat as Elena who we are able to empathise with despite her somewhat ignorant demeanour and Oliver Dimsdale as Astrov who is both physically and mentally handsome-the stage often brought to life with each appearance.
This production of Uncle Vanya allows the stunning properties of Chekhov’s text to be fully appreciated as part of an up to date design. Despite it keeping its original 1890s setting we are able to relate the themes of the piece to our modern lives.
Kaiser Chiefs ‘Stay Together’ Tour
Over the last few years the North Wales music scene has turned a massive corner with acts such as James Morrison at Rhyl Pavillion. The Shires and Bellowhead at Venue Cymru, Little Mix, Lionel Richie, and Elton John gracing the stage at Parc Eirias . And last night the Kaiser Chiefs kicked off the first leg of their UK tour at the Venue Cymru Arena in Llandudno.
The 2,500 capacity venue was sold out but with plenty of space to dance! The support acts warmed up the crowd suitably and just before 9pm we were treated to a large neon sign donned with a bright arrow pointing to the stage and the words ‘Tonite-Kaiser Chiefs’. With what seemed to be some kind of salute to 1940s-60s America the sign intermittently flickered and buzzed in the fifteen minutes before the band’s arrival-a suitable tease!
The show opened with the band on a small stage in the style of an American high school prom-the ones we are used to seeing in the movies (think Grease!) complete with silver tinsel curtain, a disco ball and lead vocalist Ricky Wilson in a green blazer throwing his best Elvis shapes!
Soon after, and in a little murmur of confusion, the band were behind the tinsel curtain as it suddenly fell, revealing the real size of the arena stage, a huge neon ‘K’ and ‘C’ and a plethora of lights and smoke machines. The perfect secret reveal!
The band, from Leeds, who originally formed in 2000, played all of their greatest hits including ‘I Predict a Riot’ (which shot them to stardom in 2005 reaching number 9 in the UK Singles Chart), ‘Ruby’ (which topped the charts in 2007), ‘Modern Way’ and ‘Everyday I Love You Less and Less’ along with some new stuff including the catchy ‘Hole in my Soul’ and ‘Parachute’.
Ricky Wilson is a brilliant showman with incredible energy and a voice with stunning control despite scaling scaffolding and jumping through the crowds, transforming most female fans into screaming teenagers as they stumbled to get closer!
The guys deserve every success on their latest tour and they’ve certainly started as they mean to go on in this little seaside town! They go on to perform in Bournemouth on Friday and then throughout the UK over February and March, including a huge show at the O2 in London.
Venue Cymru Arena, Llandudno
Wednesday February 22nd 2017 7pm
Supported by Howl Sounds and Spring King
Sunny Afternoon charts the rise of 1960s British rock band, The Kinks and if you don’t already adore their incredible back catalogue, then you will after seeing this hit musical.
Upon entering the auditorium we see an open stage, able to look upon the band warming up and the simple, yet extremely effective set which, throughout, allows the stage to be transformed from a teenager’s bedroom in a Muswell Hill flat to the rock ‘n’ roll stage at Madison Square Gardens, New York.
The costumes are wonderfully reflective of the time and are a nostalgic time travel back to the fashions of the era. In fact, one of the stand out musical numbers ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ sees Dave Davies donning a sharp suit and a feather boa whilst the rest of the band perform a dance routine with shop mannequins-utterly good fun!
The band’s story lends itself perfectly to its musical adaptation; a rags to riches tale with plenty of love, heartache, fame, fortune and even a few punch ups! But this is more than your average jukebox musical with every piece of music beautifully intertwined within the narrative including a stunning acappella rendition of ‘Days’ and a show stopping version of ‘Sunny Afternoon’ which combines a hark back to England’s 1966 World Cup victory (and could easily have been the finale!)
The production includes a stellar cast who not only provide various reincarnations of the story’s colourful characters but who also play a number of musical instruments throughout the piece (kudos to Andrew Gallo as Mick Avory for his immense drum solo!) Special mention must also go to Ryan O’Donnell as Ray Davies and Mark Newnham as his brother Dave-both flawless performances.
“Will they still be playing it in 30 years time?” asks lead singer Ray Davies, talking of his self penned title song. Well, it’s been over 50 years and I’m now evermore convinced that this ground breaking music will live on for a lot longer yet!
Venue Cymru, Llandudno
February 14th-18th 2017
Authors: Ray Davies music and lyrics, Joe Penhall book, based on an original story by Ray Davies
Director: Edward Hall
Design: Miriam Buether set and costume, Rick Fisher lighting, Matt McKenzie for Autograph sound
Musical Supervisor : Elliott Ware
Choreographer: Adam Cooper
Technical: Tom Nickson production manager, David Curl company stage manager, Deborah Andrews costume supervisor, Carole Hancock at Hum Studio wigs, Robyn Hardy, Hannah Sharp props supervisors, Suzanne Crowley, Gilly Poole casting for Hampstead and West End, Natalie Gallacher for Pippa Ailion casting for West End
Cast includes: Victoria Anderson, Nathanael Campbell, Tomm Coles, Deryn Edwards, Andrew Gallo, Richard Hurst, Sophie-Leigh Griffin, Mark Newnham, Ryan O’Donnell, Garmon Rhys, Joseph Richardson, Robert Took, Michael Warburton, Libby Watts, Lucy Wilkerson, Lisa Wright
Producers: Sonia Friedman Productions with Tulchin Bartner Productions, Greg Ripley Duggan for Hampstead Theatre Productions, Tanya Link Productions, Just for Laughs Theatricals/Glass Half Full Productions, Rupert Gavin
Running time: Approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes (with a 15 minute interval)