The Cherry Orchard: Beyond the Truth

I wasn’t supposed to be reviewing this show, but on a friend’s recommendation (“three Korean ladies doing Chekhov. It’s very postmodern”) I popped in, little knowing what to expect. This production by Margot Theatre is a theatrical delight.

Startlingly funny in places, always visually interesting and with some moments of real pathos, The Cherry Orchard: Beyond the Truth is absurd, kitsch and brilliant.

The story of Chekhov’s classic play The Cherry Orchard may well be familiar to you, but it’s not a prerequisite to seeing this play, as everything you need to know is printed in the program. The performance deconstructs the story of three women in denial about the reality of their lives. Ranevskaya returns home from Paris with debts so significant that the family cherry orchard will be auctioned. Her adopted daughter, Varya, who has stayed at home, keeps trying to tell Ranevskaya of the impending option, who employs more and more ludicrous behaviour to avoid hearing what she doesn’t want to hear. Anya, the other daughter, hyper by lack of sleep on the journey back, also avoids reality. Key lines are repeated as refrains throughout the performance, like Varya’s desperate “Mum, the cherry orchard will be put up for auction” create a piece that is built on several key moments.

The physicality of the performers is stunning, using immense precision and control. Production values are high and the visuals are engaging, with hyper-coloured costumes to match the heightened performance style. As the reality they are trying to deny intrudes it is manifested through tics in their limbs. Varya’s leg quivers uncontrollably when she claims she won’t marry her boyfriend because she is busy and needs to work. Anya is taken over by compulsive itching. Ranevskaya slaps herself every time she says she will not leave her girls again for Paris. There’s something of Pinocchio in the truth appearing through the body language.

The performance is rich with metaphor, like the tea party scene in which the three women sit down to thimble-sized plates of food, so tiny that their appetites cannot possibly be sated, just as their desires in life are not being fulfilled. Ranevskaya’s comment that Varya has remained the same while she’s been away—just as the cherry orchard is unchanged is a powerful moment demonstrating Ranevskaya refusal to accept the changing world.

Startlingly funny in places, always visually interesting and with some moments of real pathos, The Cherry Orchard: Beyond the Truth is absurd, kitsch and brilliant.

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Performances

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The Blurb

International award-winning physical theatre company from South Korea put their own avant-garde stamp on Chekhov's classic. Hopelessly in debt, the Gayev family are forced to sell their beloved estate, and see the cherry orchard cut down. Visual and compelling 21st-century take on the story of how shifts in society deeply affect us all, and what happens to those who cannot keep pace with change. An entertaining and thought-provoking classic story that is still strikingly relevant today.

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