Directed by Victor Sobchak
Playing at the Lion and Unicorn until June 19th
This imaginative production, part-scripted, part-devised, is based on the surreal premise that Anton Chekhov (Graeme Henderson-Mackenzie) and six of his characters are incarcerated in a psychiatric ward. The waspish Doctor Khobotoff (Stacha Hicks) favours the abusive regime meted out by sadistic nurse Martha (Clare Finlay) to control the patients rather than the more liberal approach of Doctor Ragin (Marcio Mello), whose own sanity is increasingly called into question. Meanwhile the dilettante do-gooder Princess (Sandra Darnell) pops in sporadically, condescending to a little feel-good philanthropy in between her society lunches, while eccentric board-member Mikhail (Peter Andronov) offers Ragin ineffectual friendship and ultimate abandonment.
It’s an interesting premise, the claustrophobia of the enclosed ward introduces some fascinating swings in power dynamics, and clever philosophical and political ideas and Biblical parallels are introduced to enhance the mix.
As with many devised works, though, it sometimes seems that
the imperative to give each member of the team equal stage time has been more
important than structural and thematic coherence. The setting of the asylum and
the Chekhovian allusions also lead to emotions (and volume!) being pumped up to
fever pitch for too much of the time.
Nonetheless, an interesting experiment, which has allowed a talented group of young actors free rein to their creativity – this must be a good thing.