Socialist Worker

The Cherry Orchard’s 21st century comedic update

by Sophia Beach
Issue No. 2596

Kirsty Bushell as Ranevskaya and Jude Owusu as Lopakhin

Kirsty Bushell as Ranevskaya and Jude Owusu as Lopakhin

Anton Chekhov’s 1903 classic The Cherry Orchard tells the story of an indebted aristocratic Russian family who have to sell their land and possessions.

The last to be sold is their family home which boasts a large and beloved cherry orchard.

Eventually, the family sell the orchard to Lopakhin, the son of a serf who worked on the family’s estate and a self-made venture capitalist.

He cuts down the cherry orchard in order to make a business out of building a number of holiday homes.

Rory Mullarkey’s translation of the play transforms a script which could be seen as dated into a vibrant and modern comedy.

A young boy—the ghost of Madame Ranevskaya’s child—does the scene changes amid completley oblivious actors on stage, adding another dimension to the tragicomedy.


In the past, the play has tended to be produced more as tragedy than farce. But Boyd and Mullarkey’s Cherry Orchard is full of humour from start to finish.

It begins and ends with the young boy and Firs, the abandoned servant, on stage accompanied by jolly Russian folk music.

It reminds us of the old regime, which Firs keeps reminiscing about, and the birth of a new one.

But it is Kirsty Bushell’s electric performance as Ranevskaya that gives the production its brilliance.

Bushell’s Ranevskaya is an eccentric and generous character who appears to be utterly useless at dealing with the world as it is.

She gets the balance between the sadness of some of her scenes but the overall humour of the play perfect.

The last thing we hear as the stage goes dark is the axe falling on the orchard, not so subtly telling us that things are about to change.

With a world in crisis and capitalism in turmoil we can see the relevance of this play today.

Petya, excellently played by Enyi Okoronkwo, personifies the hunger and desire for progressive social change.

In his final scene before leaving to study in Moscow—and hopefully to build support for the coming revolution—he rails against the centuries of slavery on which the estate was built.

While Lopakhin and Ranevskaya represent the rising middle classes and diminishing gentry respectively, it is Petya who symbolises the hope for the future.

Although there is nothing particularly revolutionary about Boyd’s rendition of the Cherry Orchard it is a fresh and thoroughly enjoyable production.

On at the Bristol Old Vic until 7 April. Tickets from £10 at

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Article information

Mon 19 Mar 2018, 09:47 GMT
Issue No. 2596
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