The Cherry Orchard


The Cherry Orchard, the final production of the 2010-11 season of 2 National Theatre Live, screens at Dendy Byron Bay Cinemas this weekend.

Set at the start of the 20th Century, the play captures a poignant moment in Russia’s history as the country rolls inexorably towards 1917.

Madame Ranyevskaya returns to Russia penniless – since her son’s death some years back she has been living in France with her lover.

But the family in Russia is also in dire financial straits and their world is changing – revolution is in the air.

Lopakhin, a local merchant and former serf to the Ranyevskaya family, offers a plan to save the estate if they will allow part of it to be developed into summer cottages. However, this will mean the destruction of their famous cherry orchard, which for Ranyevskaya has become a symbol of her youth and childhood.

Adapted for the National by the Sydney Theatre Company’s artistic director Andrew Upton, the play was written by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, a short-story writer, playwright and physician born in Russia in 1860 and considered to be one of the greatest short-story writers.

His career as a dramatist produced four classics: The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard.

Chekhov’s father was a clever man but he abused his wife and children.

His mother, Yevgenya, however, was an excellent storyteller who entertained the children with tales of her travels with her cloth-merchant father all over Russia.

"Our talents we got from our father," Chekhov remembered, "but our soul from our mother."

In 1884, Chekhov qualified as a physician, which he considered his principal profession though he made little money from it and treated the poor for free.

Eight years later he bought a small country estate about 64 kilometres south of Moscow, where he lived until 1899 with his family.

He took his responsibilities as a landlord seriously, organising relief for victims of famine and cholera outbreaks.

He went on to build three schools, a fire station, and a clinic, and to donate his medical services to peasants for miles around, despite frequent recurrences of the tuberculosis which finally killed him.

The Cherry Orchard was Chekhov’s last play. It premiered in January 1904 at the Moscow Arts Theatre and Chekhov died six months later in Germany.

Madame Ranyevskaya is played by Zoë Wanamaker. Her eclectic career has seen her starring in many West End and Broadway productions, including Much Ado About Nothing, The Rose Tattoo and the Crucible, as well as the title role in Electra at the Donmar Warehouse for which she won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress.

Her extensive television work includes My Family, Poirot, Doctor Who, Miss Marple, Gormenghast and Love Hurts; films include Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and My Week with Marilyn.

Don’t miss this exciting production, described by the London Metro as "a funny and affecting production with an excellent cast, who capture the wild exuberance and piercing melancholy of Chekhov’s play".

The Cherry Orchard, Dendy Byron Bay Cinemas, July 23 & 24, at 1pm.


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