Ivanov in a new adaptation by Tom Stoppard, directed by Lewis Harding. Ivanov is an ambitious play to take on, it was the first of Chekhov’s plays to be staged and reflects his deep and dark elements before he became the refined playwright of Russia. Like many of Chekhov’s plays it deals with the downfall of the aristocracy in late 19th Century Russia – people dealing with situations, such as financial difficulties, they never expected.
Ivanov tells the story of Nikolai Ivanov (Oli Clayton) who is heavily in debt and in deep melancholy as he has also fallen out of love with his wife Anna (Cara Mahoney), who has been kept from knowing her fatal diagnosis of tuberculosis.
It was a large cast full of talent, however, the actors could have done with a bit more time rehearsing for everything to fall completely into place. Oli Clayton as Ivanov portrayed the anti-hero quite well and Caterina Giammarresi, his youthful and naive love interest Sasha, was very believable. The supporting cast was very strong, Arnie Birss was particularly amusing as Count Shabelsky and Emma Taylor was delightful as Babakina.However, the most surprising entertainment came from Peter von Zand as the butler Gabriel when he cleaned up the aftermath of a party, by jumping and dancing around to jazz music, providing great comic relief in this highly dramatic production.
The show was very aesthetically pleasing. The cast was dressed in modern party clothing with all the characters wearing dark colors safe for Ivanov who ironically was dressed in all white. These dark clothes and the colorful accessories provided a good contrast to the all white set. The set was ideal for the different colors of lighting. The modern music score was also very well applied and fitting with the play.
The play itself is very interesting and still relevant as a portrayal of depression as well as providing insight into the decline of the Russian aristocracy. The first half was a bit lighter and therefore more entertaining while the second half dragged a bit on towards the end. However Lewis Harding was successful in taking on such an ambitious project and delivering a great cast performance and a visually stimulating show.