Theatre in Wales

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At Theatr Clwyd

Uncle Vanya- Theatr Clwyd & Sheffield Theatres , Emlyn Williams Theatre, Theatr Clwyd , October 3, 2017
At Theatr Clwyd by Uncle Vanya- Theatr Clwyd & Sheffield Theatres Tamara Harvey's “Uncle Vanya” continues at Mold before departing for its co-producer's theatre where it plays October 18th to November 4th. The broadsheets have not got to Mold, although to give them their due Sheffield is a nippy straight run home to Kings Cross.

The critical response in Wales- and, frankly, that is where it matters- has been uniform. So in radically edited form Georgie Bulwell, writing for Wales Arts Review: “Peter Gill’s revised script, directed by Tamara Harvey and performed by an unerringly talented cast at Theatr Clwyd, is a stunning triumph. Gill’s adaptation brings the play adroitly into the 21st century, while maintaining the 19th century setting.

“...Theatr Clwyd’s set is beautiful and cleverly designed. A large picture frame is suspended from the ceiling, framing a branch that hangs over the stage. Though the frame symbolises modern civilisation and the art to which Serebryakov has dedicated his life, the nature that it attempts to contain spills out of the borders, encroaching on the action on stage.

“...Performed in the round in the intimate Emlyn Williams Theatre, the play is exposed on all sides and the members of the cast are offered the opportunity to fully engage with the audience. Throughout, weather effects and bird song serve to further bring nature inside and contribute to the immersion and realism of the play itself. The strains of longing music throughout ties together the four acts, set in four different ‘rooms’ of the house. The progression from garden, to living room, to dining room, to study perfectly symbolises the movement of the play, from fanciful and teasing discussion of life and philosophy, to the formation and destruction of friendships and relationships, and at last to the play’s moral: work until you can work no more, because what else do you have to live for?”

The admirable Get the Chance has taken its espousal of young writers Gog-wards. After a workshop with Venue Cymru and Theatr Clwyd not one but two new voices were there to report on what they saw and felt.

Donna Poynton: “We feel we are let in on the action, surrounding the players; close emotionally as well as physically. Each scene cleverly switches from outside to in and we are treated to some glorious pieces of silent acting as the characters themselves subtly manoeuvre the set to allow transitions (for example we hear claps of thunder and rainfall and a handful of actors swiftly grab chairs and rugs to ‘save them from getting wet’)...

“...We see love in all forms; love for family (as much as we may often speak ill of them or even wish then ill!), the love of nature, love of home, romantic love and even love unrequited but it appears that love brings with it sadness, frustration, sorrow and even utter despair!

“...This production has been cast superbly but special mention must also go to Rosie Sheehy as Sonya who plays the innocence and the pain of unreturned love beautifully, to Shanaya Rafaat as Elena...

Also at Get the Chance Gareth Williams: Tamara Harvey has made a very inspired decision in performing Uncle Vanya ‘in the round’. Throughout the play, the close proximity to the audience of the actors made for an intensity of drama and emotion that would not have been so keenly felt in a proscenium. It was, in some ways, a unique experience to witness the faces of these characters so closely and to see their emotions clearly..

“...the costumes are of such fine and exquisite detail, perfectly suited to the period in which Vanya is set... the most beautiful piece on display is the map that Astrov (Dinsdale) rolls out across the dining room table. Its colours are so striking, so meticulously drawn, the sense of realism is startling.

“...Rosie Sheehy whose performance, as Sonja, was achingly beautiful. You could not only see the unhappiness etched on her face, it was possible to feel it too such was the intensity of her presentation. To communicate so affectingly reveals the strength of her acting skill. She was simply superb.”

Steve Stratford homed in on Jamie Ballard but also praised design and lighting and the role of Peter Gill.

“...Lucy Osborne paints impressions of locations judiciously, with a garden swing, a rug and cushions, an armchair or a kitchen table. One of the greatest achievements of the production is hiding in plain sight, as ever, in Ric Mountjoy's sumptuous but subtle lighting - at times as gorgeous as a Dutch Master's painting, more illumination than lighting.

But what's striking about Theatr Clwyd's production is how Peter Gill has adapted the stagy, heavy, almost unsayable 19th century dialogue into a very modern, but not jarring play for these times. At some point during this play, someone will say something that you yourself will utterly believe in, and agree with. Uncle Vanya may be about class division in 20th century Russia, but it speaks clearly both to and about today, and most unnervingly of all, it warns us of tomorrows to come...”

Copyright: the authors.

The reviews in full are to be seen at

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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