Book Review: The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov
WEN reading club meet every month
Chekhov is known as a man who appreciated humour and considered that for all the sadness of his characters' situation there was humour in his play. Reading this more than a century on the humour was outweighed by the tragic circumstances of his characters and we talked at length about how humour can be appreciated in this way.
Unable to accept the changes in society, she and many of the characters look back to the past and do nothing. The cherry orchard is sold and cutting it down begins before the play ends symbolising the end of a way of life that can not be returned to.
Who bought the cherry orchard? Lopakhin, a merchant, a self made man whose family had been serfs not even allowed into the kitchen of the estate he comes to own. To complete the symbolic change in society the old and faithful butler, Firs ends the play locked in the house with the cherry orchard being brought down around him, a truly sad and tragic ending for the character but reinforcing Chekhovs message that he has no place in the changing society, he belongs to a world that has ceased to exist and is locked in it.
Presented as a version by Andrew Upton the characters and action really came to life and where we'd struggled with the humour on first reading the play there were many laugh out loud moments in the theatre.
In both text and on stage the portrayal of family life really works; with individuals facing their own personal concerns and the issue of the cherry orchard taking place many of the characters were at pains to express themselves, but in the way we can relate to, in family life people are preoccupied and often don't respond to what's presented to them but carry on with their own issues. This and the way of living and socialising was brought beautifully to life on stage.
The only thing we weren't entirely happy with was in the updated version Andrew Upton who has done a brilliant job of relating to the modern audience has added language, such as 'garbage' that some in the group didn't feel quite fitted.
6 July 2011