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Experimental theatre company Filter aren’t quite radical enough in their new production of Chekhov’s drama of unfulfilled lives and hopeless longing. 

Their irresistible 2008 interpretation of another classic, Twelfth Night, ruthlessly cut it down to less than 90 minutes whilst still preserving the essence - and the fun - of Shakespeare’s comedy. 

But although some of the same techniques are employed here – the stage looks like a rehearsal room, the technicians and musical instruments are integrated into the action, and the actors themselves shift such scenery as there is – this time round they’re less effective.

There’s an emphasis on sound – a kettle (not a samovar) comes to the boil in a void of silence, declarations of love uttered in secret trysts are amplified through microphones - but quite why,  (unlike her older siblings) the youngest Prozorov, Irina (in her black leggings and white lace dress) speaks with an Irish accent is something of a mystery). 

As her youthful enthusiasm for work is replaced by the reality of the daily grind, she seems destined to follow in the footsteps of Poppy Miller’s older, dowdier Olga, whilst elegant, languid middle sister, Masha, (wed far too young to Paul Brennen’s well-meaning but irritatingly devoted school teacher) falls for John Lightbody’s philosophising Vershinin (temporarily stationed in their garrison town, equally unhappily married but charismatic in his army uniform).

It’s a competent production, not without its moments of humour and pathos, but the heart seems to have gone out of it – and the innovations aren’t enough to fill the empty space.

3/5

Words: Louise Kingsley

Lyric Hammersmith, King Street, W6 0QL (0871 221 1726). Till 20 February (£10-25) 


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