The Cherry Orchard
Performed Friday 18th of March and Saturday 19th of March.
With thanks to paola alessandri-gray who took the photo's
‘THE CHERRY ORCHARD’
Shropshire Youth Theatre at Theatre Severn
I find myself presently waking each morning and turning on the radio to discover just how much the world has changed since the night before. There must have been a similar sense of unease in 1900s Russia as the old aristocracy began to flounder under financial failure and the class system destabilized.
Anton Chekhov picked up on this in his last play ‘The Cherry Orchard’ - and the student committee of the Shropshire Youth Theatre cleverly spotted echoes of today’s problems in the century old text and presented the piece at Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn last week with style and presentiment.
Matt Broomfield was bang on message with his portrayal of the upwardly mobile peasant-stock Yermolay. His swaggering mixture of anger and joy when announcing that he’d bought his landlord’s Cherry Orchard - because now he finally can - was a beautifully executed pivot of the play in which the burgeoning seeds of the forthcoming revolution are irrevocable sown. his was a mature ensemble performance. There were no makeweights in the cast and several stars shone.
The brightest included Rosie Coxhead and Jolon Kemp Walker as the dithering, scatterbrained landowners Lyuba and Leonid. Rosie searched the sky with anxious, tremulous voice for answers to questions she could barely imagine and her irrational, soaring rage at the news of the sale and was consummately handled; whilst Jolon’s character brushed aside impending doom with an array of imaginary snooker shots.
By contrast James Rowson’s portrayal of the down-at-heel student Peter was nicely weighted and firmly down to earth. He exuded a calm centre of reason whilst all around were losing there’s, and looks and sounds every inch a proper actor.
Harriet Brown and Natasha Marshall also impressed as the daughters of the household. Harriet used her pre-Raphaelite looks and stage grace to good effect, whilst Natasha’s stooping shoulders and growing facial despair were authentic trademarks of a loser in love.
‘The Cherry Orchard’ is not an easy play. Most characters have little time to establish themselves and the script is more an organised series of vignettes, peppered with tricky discontinuities and off beat exit lines. Yet the cast was completely competent, comfortable and full of conviction.
Ironically starved of Arts Council funds, the company’s necessarily sparse setting merely underlined the financial plight of the time - and the fact that the whole story was emerging from the mouths of the generation destined to inherit the chaos we leave them, rendered the whole show all the more impelling.
Chris Eldon Lee