Almeida Theatre at King's Cross, London N1
Opened 11 September, 2001

*** Still more interesting in theory than in practice

Even cut to half its seven-hour length and more tightly focused by David Hare, Chekhov's first play is still a shapeless sprawl.

There are many points of interest here: the motifs which are more confidently reworked in Chekhov's later plays, the overt social critique largely missing from those plays, the ricocheting youthful energy that sets each of the four acts in a different dramatic register, the way the central character of seductive schoolteacher Platonov looks back to Don Juan and forward to Jimmy Porter whilst remaining resolutely Russian. All these aspects, though, are for slightly detached contemplation; as a play, despite some fine passages, Platonov simply does not work overall.

Aidan Gillen's strange, over-mannered performance substitutes vain posing for the seductive charisma which Platonov should exude. Gillen is a magnificent actor, but this is his most disappointing major performance in the ten years since I first saw him. Helen McCrory as Anna Petrovna (one of four women Platonov toys with) is altogether warmer, Tam Dean Burn in a supporting role shows Gillen how magnetism is done, and the real star of the show is Paul Brown's gorgeous set. It is an evening more for those who want to brush up their Chekhov than those who fancy a good self-contained play.

Written for

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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