seen 28 August 2015, Lyttelton Theatre (National Theatre), London
by Patrick Marber; a version of Turgenev’s A Month in the Country
Day one of our mini theatre break saw us finally watch a play in the National Theatre instead of just watching it on the big screen or letting our credit cards smoke in their book shop as usual. After getting up at half past four in the morning to get the first flight to London, we appreciated the comfy seats in the Lyttelton a lot.
I have to admit having steered more or less clear of ‘the Russians’ after having had to inhale ten of the standards (think Brothers Karamazov and their ilk) within a week for my finals at school. There’s only so much tragedy I can take in such short time and with little exceptions, I don’t feel drawn to them when they are performed on stage. In this case, we were drawn in by the casting and early reviews and ended up more than happy with our decision.
Of course, this being a Russian play from the mid 1800s, there is more unrequited love than at your average One Direction concert, but it’s infinitely more fun.
I’m not familiar with the source material, so I can’t say if the humour comes from there or has been inserted by Patrick Marber when he condensed the original month into enjoyable three days, but this version was hilarious.
Everyone gets their time to shine, from lynchpin lady of the house Natalya (Amanda Drew) to maidservant Katya (Cherrelle Skeete, who has one hell of a singing voice) with Debra Gillett’s Lizaveta and Mark Gatisses Shpigelsky pretty much stealing the show. Mark Gatiss not only delivers the best (for the audience) and worst (for his character) marriage proposal I’ve ever seen, but also one of the most hilarious bits of physical comedy in a long time.
The costumes were likely not very comfortable, especially for the ladies, but they looked incredible. The set design was understated and functional, but still gorgeous with an interesting addition after intermission. My sister especially liked the stage being opened towards the back.
What’s with the putting actors in neutral trend in the last few years? In this case it was fine, but sometimes characters not really leaving the stage can take away from them reappearing. It seems a bit inflationary by now. That – and Amanda Drew who has the most to carry in this play being relegated to a footnote in the poster for better known Mark Gatiss and John Sims – was actually the only thing about this production that I didn’t agree with one hundred percent. It was a very enjoyable evening that only let us notice how tired we were once we were in the tube, which is always a good sign.