The production of Uncle Vanya is undoubtedly the most spectacular and touching show yet at the Print Room. Presenting the new Mike Poulton translation of the Chekhov standard are familiar artistic duo: director extraordinaire Lucy Bailey and her genius designer husband William Dudley.
At press night I was sitting next to Michael Billington, Guardian journalist legend, who was excitedly chatting to his neighbour about the last ‘Vanya’ they’d seen… I recalled my last Vanya, the picturesque production at the damp and dimly lit Arcola Theatre in Dalston. The Print Room’s adaptation is rich and passionate but equally intimate. The cast fit together like a jigsaw… thanks to some inspired casting by Joyce Nettles, they are all experienced character actors fully committing to their roles and working superbly as a team. Iain Glen is an intense and dramatic Vanya seething with anger and unrequited desire for young Yelena. He is wry and witty and juices the script of its humour. David Yelland is hysteriously pompous as Serebryakov, and William Houston appropriately charismatic and charming as the attractive doctor, Astrov. But it is Charlotte Emmerson as the heartbroken, naïve Sonya that impresses most, she is astute and delicately handles this usually irritating role to give a star performance.
The visual and audio aids contribute considerably to the Russian countryside feel and construct the atmospheric and intimate dining room. I was reminded actually of the warm, sensory overload in Marrakech. Hot tea, empty wine bottles, stained glass windows, realistic bird calls and lilting folk guitar playing and a musty smell of herbal cigarettes in the air.
I preferred the first half which bounces with jollity and mirth, drunken dances and exuberant speeches. The pace in the second half slows considerably, laced with sadness, bitter frustration and anxiety. It ends with painful hopelessness, acted beautifully by Glen and Emmerson, it will bring a tear to every eye.
Continues until 5 May, book here.