Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: Uncle Vanya a treat for Sydneysiders

I saw Sydney Theatre Company's Uncle Vanya earlier last week and a review will be up soon but I wanted to say beforehand that it was fantastic.

Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving and Jacki Weaver on stage at the same time is dynamite. To have international stars all come back to Australia to perform is such a treat and makes for a memorable theatre experience.

Uncle Vanya is on at Sydney Theatre until January 1, 2011. If you get your hands on tickets, run, don't walk. You won't regret it.

UPDATE: REVIEW of performance 1pm Wednesday 8th December 20110

SYDNEYSIDERS were in for a treat when Sydney Theatre Company took on Chekov's Uncle Vanya with a stellar cast.

Following up from their critically acclaimed production of August: Osage County, STC proved they are well on their way out of (and hopefully never back to) the red.

Staring John Bell, Cate Blanchett, Sandy Gore, Hayley McElhinney, Anthony Phelan, Richard Roxburgh, Andrew Tighe, Jacki Weaver and Hugo Weaving, the small cast did justice and then some to Chekov's classic tale of melancholy.

Andrew Upton's adaptation brought Australian accents but kept Russian references which initially made for an uneasy fit.

However, it soon became clear Russian accents were not needed for authenticity as the range of Australian accents used clearly marked the social status of each character.

Furthermore, the play's setting- which took place in the Serebryakov family estate, a hot but occasionally rainy climate- seemed easily interchangeable with either the Australian outback or a warm summer in remote Russia.

The subtleties in script and action make for an enriching play.

Long silences interrupted by idle talk of the weather with characters disjointly scattered across the stage- part of a family yet very much alone- reinforce the sadness of the tragi-comedy.

The use of traditional, upbeat Russian folk music provides a jarring contrast to the reality of their "wasted" lives and enhances the irony of the play.

Comedic moments are just that, particularly Weaver's opening exchange with Weaving and Blanchett and McElhinney's drunken confessions.

Most memorable of all is the the pseudo-climax half way through act two that showcases Roxbrurgh's acting chops.

The chilling scene sets your mind in motion and the unwinding of the rest of the play leave the audience contemplating the implication of classic themes such as estrangement, the meaning of life and what death will bring.

Having so much Australian talent on stage is almost surreal at times, but the cast work so well together that the celebrity status of the actors quickly fades and the brutal story and fate of their characters receive our full attention.

Uncle Vanya runs at the Sydney Theatre in Walsh Bay until January 1, 2011. Tickets are almost (if not completely) sold out but if you can get your hands on some, I would highly recommended watching and engaging with this piece of gripping theatre.

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