It’s been a busy week for new versions of Chekhov’s masterpieces with both Anya Reiss’s bang up-to-date Uncle Vanya (here re located to an English farm) and Simon Stephens’ more muted interpretation of his slightly later The Cherry Orchard opening within days of each other. 

Both classics have been drastically pared down – the former running at two-and-half hours including interval, the latter swift, uninterrupted and even shorter.

Award-winning Reiss (who has already tackled the Russian playwright’s The Seagull and Three Sisters) takes a rather larky, almost sitcom approach which John Hannah’s disaffected, lovesick Vanya takes to extremes, sliding off his chair in utter despondency at the disappointment of his life.

Elsewhere, Russell Bolam’s light production has an accessible appeal as the summer visit of Vanya’s hypochondriac, academic brother-in-law and his bored, beautiful much younger wife Yelena disrupts the routine of the hard-working household and forces Amanda Hale’s Sonya (his daughter from his first marriage) to accept that Joe Dixon’s charismatic, heavily-drinking doctor Astrov with his progressive ideas, will never be hers.

Katie Mitchell takes matters far more sombrely in her atmospheric production of The Cherry Orchard, which is given an inescapably oppressive feel by designer Vicki Mortimer’s dilapidated nursery set. Once again, a return home disturbs the routine – but this time it’s an emotionally-damaged woman who has come back and the estate is already financially doomed.

Returning from Paris with an empty purse and still grieving over the tragic loss of her young son, Kate Duchene’s hopelessly impractical Ranevskaya refuses to take on board the necessity of selling off her beloved cherry orchard – despite the insistence of Dominic Rowan’s smartly suited entrepreneur Lopakhin. You could just see him as a candidate on The Apprentice, except he does, at least, show concern for her alongside his drive to increase his own self-made wealth.

There are odd moments of humour courtesy of Hugh Skinner’s accident prone Yepikhodov, but this is primarily a serious, often moving account of a play which Chekhov himself intended as a comedy.


St James, Palace Street, SW1E 5JA

Tube: Victoria

Until 8th November    

£15.00 – £49.50



Young Vic, The Cut, SE1 8LZ

Tube: Southwark / Waterloo

Until 29th November 

£10.00 – £35.00