Platonov, property doesn't always come with the money to maintain it, and Ivanov is hugely in debt to the two women who between them control the town's finances. Ivanov begins an affair with Sasha (Olivia Vinall,) daughter of his main creditor.
The Count, meanwhile, is considering marrying the other loan shark, wealthy widow
Babakina (Emma Amos,) who quite fancies adding a title to her money.
I've only seen Ivanov once before and didn't like it, particularly its
profoundly self-centred lead. This is an improvement though, Hare, Kent and
Streatfeild more successfully finding the raw depression consuming Ivanov and making
him act so selfishly as to start wooing a second wife under the dying first wife's
nose. Ivanov is still unlikeable but at least he's a bit more understandable.
There's also an interesting idea about the way he's been plagued by rumours about
marrying for money, and whether everyone expecting him to be a certain kind of
person had turned him into that.
And while the lead is full of despair Kent again provides a lot of humour around him
- Chekhov's labeling of many of his plays as comedies doesn't always translate to
the 21st century stage but Des McAleer's manipulative wheeler-dealer, Debra Gillet's
miserly harridan, Mark Penfold's dusty, downtrodden old butler and Beverley Klein's
busybody all provide comic moments.
James McArdle's had a shave between shows to provide an upright, uptight Doctor
Lvov, a man of much self-proclaimed morality but ultimately quite a sinister
figure who feeds off setting everyone else against each other. Although not as rare
as Platonov, this second play isn't as frequently seen as Chekhov's later
work, and it does at times feel repetitive in the way Ivanov expresses his angst.
There definitely is a sense of progression in the playwright's writing though, a
tighter plot, fewer extraneous characters, and the attempt to explore a naturalistic
kind of human psychology is starting to bear fruit.
Ivanov by Anton Chekhov in a version by David Hare is booking in repertory until the
8th of October at the National Theatre's Olivier.
Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes including interval.
Chekhov's Gun Watch: One "I'm pointing a loaded shotgun at your head for the bantz, LOL," one successful suicide.
Photo credit: Johan Persson.