Emma Hamblin (left) and Robynn Goddard, as Yelena and Sonya respectively in the Drill Hall Theatre Company's production of Uncle Vanya.
Emma Hamblin (left) and Robynn Goddard, as Yelena and Sonya respectively in the Drill Hall Theatre Company's production of Uncle Vanya.

Polished performances: Uncle Vanya

Anton Chekhov's tragic comedy Uncle Vanya opened at the Drill Hall Theatre in Mullumbimby Friday, June 25.

What a treat! Opening night nerves were nowhere to be seen, and I can only predict that this production will go from strength to strength.

As luck would have it, I'd been to another Chekhov production The Seagull in Sydney at the Sidetrack Theatre only the week before and found it entrancing – and can I say that the Drill Hall Theatre Company`s production does not suffer by comparison, in fact it is equally entrancing.

I was struck by the parallels in the two productions, not only in the plots and characters, but also in the attention given by director Mike Russo and his cast to establishing character along with the mood of delicious melancholy we associate with Chekhov's plays.

The music of Leonard Cohen, initially somewhat surprising, adds an appropriately dark undertone to the fatalistic mood.

Chekhov's play is about thwarted hopes and wasted lives.

But the virtue of this production is that it conveys the characters' rich potential and appetite for life.

Russell Eldridge's Vanya is a figure of crackling energy and barely repressed romantic desire.

Dr Astrov, played by first timer Carl Taylor, is a tree hugger,a visionary ecologist driven to drink by overwork and disillusion.

And Emma Hamblin, with her sinuous movement and her desperate kisses shows us that Yelena has a sexual voracity which is blocked by her marriage to Serebryakov, an ageing arthritic academic, played with robust vitriol by Greg Aitkin.

But ultimately it is the quality of endurance that makes Chekhov so moving.

It is there in Sonya's last speech, which Robynn Goddard delivers with defiant optimism and in Sam Hemphill's impoverished landowner 'Waffles' Telegin, still struggling to cope with his wife's desertion the day after their marriage.

In their respective cameo roles,Cate Feldmann as Maman is a gracious matriarchal figure and newcomer Christie Fry as Marina the stoic old nanny, symbolises the human reality which will endure well beyond the self absorbed concerns of these characters she refers to as the 'cackling geese'.

Uncle Vanya plays to July 11, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 5pm.
Tickets ($15, $12 Conc, students $10) are available at the door or from The Bookshop Mullumbimby 6684 1413.
 



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