Chekhov Double Bill
The Nottingham New Theatre presents: Two Russian farces, one night, £3.
Bargain culture indeed, yet this was an evening of two halves in more ways than one.
The plots were essentially the same – blundering aristocrat tries to win the hand of the beautiful but reluctant maiden whilst the situation descends into farcical argument over land, dogs or debt.
Inevitably one or more of the characters hysterically collapses, ensuing more hilarity yet of course it all ends well, boy gets girl and everybody is smiling. Unfortunately this similarity posed a problem for director Emily Zinkin.
Comparisons between the two were inevitable, especially as each play was separately cast, and one couldn’t help feel The Bear came out on top. Whilst The Proposal at times felt over acted, The Bear nailed the eccentric upper class indulgence Chekhov was trying to parody.
In particular Nick Walters’ portrayal of Smirnov was eloquent, multi-faceted and downright hilarious. His sweeping monologues combined with excellent physicality were convincing, energetic and made great use of space and props.
This is not to do a disservice Laura Cremona’s ballsy Popova or Emily Brady’s brash imprudent Luka however. The contrast of Popova’s loyal mourning and Luka’s more pragmatic outlook towards the beginning tickled many whilst Luka’s hysterical collapse was a treat for the few rows that could see it.
The Proposal did also have its moments; be it Natalya’s feigned sickness, hand movements and all, or Ivan’s “my heart’s burst! My shoulder’s come off. … Where is my shoulder”. It could also be said The Bear benefited from more generous writing.
Popova’s character was fleshed out with back story in a way Natalya’s was not whilst Smirnov’s monologues and realisation of love for Cremona, opposed to Ivan’s declaration from the start, allowed for a character arc absent in The Proposal.
However The Tab came away feeling the second half was simply a better version of the first. Nevertheless an evening of enjoyable mirth from the Nottingham New Theatre and well worth a watch.