DVD Review: Anton Chekhov’s The Duel

 
“You sap the foundations of civilisation”

Based on one of Chekhov’s novellas, The Duel is set in a seaside town in the Caucasus which could be somewhere like Sochi (if I’ve got my geography right). But the Winter Olympics are far from the subject here, unless they’re giving out medals for passive-aggressiveness, pretentious moping and hopelessly futile inaction. These of course are the hallmarks of Chekhovian drama and they’re all present and correct in this 2010 film by Dover Kosashvili which boasts an excellent Anglo-Irish cast including Andrew Scott, Tobias Menzies and Michelle Fairley. 

The plot focuses on Scott’s Laevsky, a Russian aristocrat whose sense of entitlement has abdicated any form of responsibility from his life. So he’s hugely in debt, he’s careless in his work at the civil service, and he’s engaged in an affair with a married woman, Nadya, whom he has coaxed away from Moscow. But he doesn’t love her and when the news comes that her husband has died, thereby freeing her to marry her lover, Laevsky withholds the information from her. All the while, he stands in pernicious moral judgement of all those around him, truly a product of the decaying society of this Mother Russia.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Anton Chekhov’s The Duel”

Review: The Judas Kiss, Richmond Theatre

“I adored you.
‘It was not the same…'”

Fresh from a successful run at the Hampstead Theatre and before its arrival in the West End in the New Year, this revival of David Hare’s The Judas Kiss visits Richmond Theatre for a week and packed out the halls (and overcrowded foyer) of this Victorian theatre last night. The play focuses on two episodes in the destructive relationship between Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas: the first as the playwright retreats to a suite in the Cadogan Hotel in the wake of his failed attempt to sue Bosie’s father for libel and in anticipation of his own arrest; and the second two years later as Wilde tries to recuperate post-incarceration in the warmer climes of Naples.

Everett makes a different Wilde to the one one might expect. Hare resists the temptation to over-burden him with an ever-present rapier wit, making him a more solemn, melancholy figure – though one who can still produce a barbed comment at the drop of a velvet hat – thoroughly pummelled by the weight of Victorian society’s puritanical hypocrisy, a point hammered home by the opening image of screwing servants. But there’s an element too of self-flagellation here, even against the advice of his nearest and dearest to flee for France. With a tragic knowingness in his eyes, Everett’s redoubtable Wilde determinedly holds onto his personal integrity even as he knows that Bosie cannot, or will not, match such devotion. Continue reading “Review: The Judas Kiss, Richmond Theatre”

Review: The Comedy of Errors, Open Air Theatre

“For they say every why hath a wherefore”

The second play in this year’s season at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park is Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. An early farce featuring two sets of identical twins separated at birth, they end up in the same town and several cases of mistaken identity then lead to a series of madcap capers and general confusion as everyone begins to question their relationships with others. This production is set in 1940s Casablanca and features amongst many, many other things, live swing music.

There’s so much going on and so many different tricks and whistles that it ultimately feels quite schizophrenic as a production. There are elements of ‘40s screwball comedy, jazz musicals and Carry On films amongst others, but they just didn’t feel well integrated. This was particularly obvious in Egeon’s scenes which were played straight and without fanfare and so felt tonally as if they were from a whole different play: scenes tend to stop and start as whatever new device is employed rather than flow from one to the other. Continue reading “Review: The Comedy of Errors, Open Air Theatre”