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Director, Stephen Unwin, was very apologetic.
illness has meant that the English Touring theatre's performances
of John Gabriel Borkman have had to be cancelled this week in Oxford.
job that cast member Michael Pennington has a one-man show up his
production of Anton Chekhov, we are told, comes out of a 15-year
love affair with the writer and his work.
see Pennington, as Chekhov, reminiscing about his life, his writing
techniques and his relationship with the theatre.
one point Pennington has the house lights brought up so he can talk
to the audience directly, and give them the choice about which Chekhov
play they would like to hear more about.
in the performance was said or written by Chekhov himself, and what
emerges is what extraordinary good company the writer must have
up to look uncannily like the portaits of the Russian, Pennington
delivers his material beautifully.
the evening he takes you with him along paths of beauty (a character
is decribed as someone who "breathes happiness"), of humour (who
could resist Chekhov's obvious delight in extolling the virtues
of idleness and the desire to "drink champagne and love a fat girl"?)
and, of course of sadness.
words are still intensely powerful.
example, the part of the show where he describes going to observe
conditions in a prison in Siberia, is heartrending, yet it is spoken
without obvious anger or outrage.
another lyrical passage, Pennington shows Chekhov going to the core
of the human condition. What is the point, he questions, in writing
a story about a man travelling to the north pole in a submarine,
when in real life "people have dinner - that's what they do."
Chekhov, as a one man show, is a little bit of an oddity to be sure.
it is a fitting substitute for Ibsen, I don't know, but it holds
its own as an evening of wit and literary merit, with some wise
homespun advice thrown in.
thanks to this performance, when my relatives next come to stay
I will call to mind these words of Chekhovian wisdom: "Be thankful
that they are not the police."
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