by Philip Radcliffe
June 1, 2005
The Maly Drama Theatre of St Petersburg is one of the world's outstanding companies - and their spellbinding production of Chekhov's soul-searching Uncle Vanya demonstrates their prowess. Under the painstaking direction of Lev Dodin, it lasts three hours, in Russian with English surtitles, and spares no unhurried detail.
If that sounds like a recipe for an intellectual exercise, forget it. This is a definitive Vanya, full of human emotion and stifled passion, hope and disillusionment tenderness and humour, self-pity and self-destruction.
Even though performed on bare boards with sparse furniture, overhung by three haystack; it embraces the brooding atmosphere of the country estate, witnessing the tensions between family, retainers and the disturbing doctor, Astrov.
There are several compelling performances, especially that of the outstanding Ksenia Rappoport is Elena. Her scenes with her lovelorn step-daughter, Sonya (the delightful Elena Kalinina) and would-be lover, Astrov (charismatic Petr Semak) are highlights. Sergei Kurishev is an effectively damaged Vanya.
This is theatre at its best - and I was sorry that it lasted only three hours. More, more.
Learn more about the production.