The Cherry Orchard
Duddingston Kirk Manse Garden (Venue 121)
4 stars ****
THE EDINBURGH FRINGE is not a particularly friendly setting for a good, strong, conventional-looking production of one of the most familiar classics in the whole theatre canon. Yet all the same, it’s hard not to be seduced by the special charm of Theatre Alba’s beautiful new version of Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard, with a new text by leading Scottish playwright Jo Clifford, fine live music from a three-piece band led by Richard Cherns, and a gloriously appropriate setting, for this of all plays, in the kirk garden that slopes down to Duddingston Loch, just behind Arthur’s Seat.
Trimming the text slightly to fit a two-and-a-half-hour time slot, Charles Nowosielski moves deftly through the four acts of Chekhov’s mighty drama, using just a few simple pieces of furniture – moved and resettled on the lawn above the loch, between acts – to conjure up the house and garden where the glamorous, ageing Madame Ranevskaya, and her brother Leonid, comprehensively fail to face up to the economic realities of modern estate management, and are finally forced to sell their beloved estate to the former serf and rising man of business, Lopakhin.
There are plenty of decent performances in Nowosielski’s production, with Helen Cuinn in fine form as Ranevskaya’s young daughter Anya, and Suzanne Dance impressive as Charlotta, the eccentric governess. In the end, though, it’s Corinne Harris’s beautiful, perfectly pitched performance as Ranevskaya that holds the production together, to its beautiful, lamplit end; the middle-aged woman who comes “home” to find that home is dissolving around her, and that she finally has no option but to return to the insecure, love-bruised life she has made for herself, in Paris and beyond.
Until 28 August, and at the Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, 3 September.