The Cherry Orchard, Young Vic, theatre review: A haunted, bleak experience

Director Katie Mitchell is on top form

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The Independent Culture

Chekhov without an interval?  It sounds like a wanton exercise in sadism against the bladder.

But director Katie Mitchell and playwright Simon Stephens, give us a Cherry Orchard that runs straight through at two hours. 

It's a compressed, harsher, bleaker experience that purists may jib at but which tugs out the hard facts of the matter from the gracious haze of elegy. 

What you lose in symphonic spaciousness, you gain in urgency and bite. 

The grimy panelled walls of the nursery bespeak the dilapidation of debt and its strangle-hold on a class that has retreated into the nostalgic, fatalist inertia. The dress and the language are joltingly modern. 

As Ranevskaya, Kate Duchene is brilliantly volatile, dumpily slumping to the ground or diving onto her childhood bed, unhinged by grief for her drowned son which she sees as a judgement on her sins. 

Dominic Rowan's Lopakhin is a superb mix of fierce, forward-looking exasperation and pained attachment to past ways of feeling. 

The atmosphere is haunted. If the mysterious sound of a breaking string is turned into an over-apocalyptic, power-cut incident here, there are many ouches that ring true. 

For example, that the uppish, on-the-make swine of a footman (Tom Mothersdale) cold-bloodedly engineers the desertion of Gawn Grainger's deeply affecting Firs.

Mitchell is on top form.

To 29 Nov; 020 7922 2922