**** Brian Friel unites characters from two Chekhov plays
This 65-minute piece is as much Friel as Chekhov in its unobtrusive minor-key reminiscences. A West End curio, but fascinating.
In a shabby Moscow café around 1920, a middle-aged man and woman meet; we gather they first collided the previous evening. She is in town to sort out the finances for a rescue plan for her small rural estate; he is a down-at-heel violinist. But she is Sonya, the niece of Uncle Vanya, and he is Andrey, the brother of the Three Sisters.
All they do, really, is talk. They recall earlier times; they drop coy references eliciting knowing chuckles from the audience; they extrapolate feelings and relationships from the period we know into the dramatic present. There are no surprises. It's a world away from Reza de Wet's self-consciously systematic Three Sisters Two, seen on the London fringe this spring. But, in its discreet, slow-moving way, it is captivating.
John Hurt and Penelope Wilton are of course faultless. Neither of them bats an eyelid in excess of the requisite mood, and director Robin Lefèvre wouldn't dream for a moment of asking them to do so. And where Chekhov's plays show the brink of new worlds in which his characters are about to become throwbacks, Friel takes them forward into full-fledged but still compelling mournful obsolescence.
Written for divento.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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