Isn't it nice when you go out and not only have a lovely time but on your return to the blogosphere you find your companion has written the perfect post about it, saving you the bother! Not only can you find out where I was but also find links to reviews of the production concerned and an interview with Ken Branagh – including a little about his upcoming role on TV as Kurt Wallender, Henning Mankell's miserable but endearing detective.
I am not particularly a Kenneth Branagh fan: I saw him onstage in London in his breakthrough role in Another Country, which dates both me and him, and in the interim have experienced many years of watching his rather self-regarding persona in various films (mainly) and the odd play. But yesterday, he was wonderful as Ivanov. The play is not performed that often compared with the rest of Chekhov's output (Uncle Vanya, The Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard and The Seagull are most often performed). And it is true that the play has some of the hallmarks of being an "early work". Nevertheless, the translation by Tom Stoppard is excellent and the ensemble work superb. As Times critic Benedict Nightingale writes:
"Michael Grandage bolsters his reputation as an actor’s director by getting fine performances from the (variously) ebullient, malicious and wanly affable topers played by Lorcan Cranitch, Malcolm Sinclair and Kevin McNally, but he’s equally successful at evoking a tiny, mean-spirited world where the diversions are playing cards, exchanging scandal and making anti-Semitic remarks. And the sum effect is so glumly comic you’re left wondering how Ivanov could ever have been dismissed as minor Chekhov." Cranitch and McNally in particular had the three of us laughing uncontrollably; but Branagh was truly superb, well inside the skin of this man whose irony, and tragedy, was that he was the honest person among a large group of pretenders for the accolade. The logic of his self-diagnosed condition was faultless, emotionally gripping, played-down and pacy. This is not a play with longueurs, thankfully. But it is a play with which those of us of a certain age, or at a certain stage in life, can identify, all too well. That is the genius of this particular author.