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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp London Review
by Lizzie Loveridge
The quality of Friel's writing makes these personal accounts into involving drama. We want to know whether Sonya and Andrey will stay in touch, will meet again. I think Friel has remained true to Chekhov's original characters in his imagination as to what would have happened to them in the intervening years. Both characters are delusional. Andrey tells lies, embroidering the reality with what he would have liked to have happened. He speaks of his successful children, of his life as a violinist in an orchestra, of his dead wife, only to quickly confess to Sonya that these are all untruths. Whereas Sonya prefers to cling to her fantasy that Astrov needs her and that there is some hope for her twenty three year old unrequited love. Sonya has trouble swallowing the cold tea and the hard truth as Andrey talks of the "dream life", the move to Moscow, being a perpetual expectation and touches a raw nerve. She adds vodka to the tea which makes everything more palatable but she looks sad. Friel gives us a tender portrait of these two characters who can also laugh together. Sonya describes her "endless tundra of loneliness" and Andrey recalls his ten years as an alcoholic.
John Hurt is charming as Andrey. His face weathered, his clothes shabby, he smiles nervously, each confession endearing us to him. Hurt of course has a very beautiful voice which cracks as he talks with emotion about what has happened to his sisters. Penelope Wilton as Sonya is constantly going through her piles of papers, bills and letters which are in a muddle. She tells us of the death of Vanya from a stroke and reminisces fondly. Wilton has the sharp mind and a spinsterish, brusque directness that doesn't allow Andrey to linger in a lie but invites the confession. They are like parent and charming child.
Liz Ascroft's set is a beautifully dilapidated Moscow café with small round tables and old metal chairs, the windows set in a semi-circle in premises which have seen better days. A 'cello's soulful notes set the scene with poignancy. I saw Afterplay with someone who had seen neither of the Chekhov originals but who none the less found the piece satisfying and meretricious on its own. Brian Friel does that. He writes plays that stay in the imagination.
Uncle Vanya at the Donmar Warehouse
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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