Ivanov – 0 stars

Theatre Collection, London.

Victor Sobchak’s dire production fails on pretty much every level.

He shuffles his actors around the stage like a novice chess player blindly pushes the pieces around the board, but beyond that he appears to have bestowed nothing whatsoever of a director’s eye on this piece. Settings are unclear and scene changes go practically unmarked. Opportunity upon opportunity to create interest, drama or tension is simply thrown away. The whole thing lacks energy, pace and any sense of drama (or, indeed, comedy) and feels like a cold reading by a bunch of bored and reluctant GCSE students.

Performances, too, are for the most part woeful. Ranging from monotonous, through wooden, to downright derisory, there is very little evidence of any kind of thought-through characterisation or motivation, resulting in a display of one dimensional automatons who simply traded lines of speech and seem to care very little for either themselves or each other.

The one notable exception to this is Simon Dobson, who excels as Lebedev. His performance is assured and effortless, getting every scene, every relationship, just right. It’s not so noticeable, perhaps, during the bigger scenes where other characters are more of a distraction, but in the moments where he converses with just one or two others he displays a dignified superiority and a masterly command of the script and of the stage.

Productions such as this are a perfect example of why so many people are put off Chekov. “It is such torture for me to stay here,” says Ivanov at one point during act one and, frankly, by then I was feeling exactly the same.

(originally posted 30 October 2011)

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