He puts at the centre a challenging statement by Barker, who declares he wants to make a new kind of play: one that features not what people do but what they are. Gradually he shows and of course this is also to the credit of Nelson's sly script that this is achievable. The group, predominantly British, of actors and academics who are gathered together in Williamstown, Massachusetts in slowly disclose not so much what they're up to as what they are like. A former actress Tara Fitzgerald busying herself with an affair becomes more birdlike, incautious and anxious.
A Dickens monologuist Jason Watkins who is most fully alive when being someone else is revealed as a comic who conceals tragedy. Ben Chaplin enhances his uncanny physical resemblance long jaw, long limbs, period dolefulness to Granville Barker with a manner both languid and acidic. Jemma Redgrave's mournful landlady expresses herself not so much by speaking as watching: her dogged, quiet presence — as a vigilant, suspicious audience — becomes more and more weighty. Even the scene-changes — this is a piece for people who are or who are prepared to be interested in the theatre — are eloquent.
Farewell to the Theatre could not have existed without Chekhov, to whom acknowledgment is made. Michell's graceful production has some of the qualities of the mighty but meticulous Peter Gill, who now stages a work for the first time in his year-long career in his home town of Cardiff. A Provincial Life is a departure for the National Theatre of Wales, who usually move from open spaces to unpurpose-built halls, but are now in the gleaming comfort of the handsomely renovated Sherman Cymru.
And it's a strange piece. Jemma Redgrave's Dorothy, mournfully dressed in black, has dwindled into a housekeeper and fears her brother, an assistant professor Louis Hilyer , is about to be ridiculed by his superiors, as he attempts to realise his rookie dream of staging Twelfth Night.
In a less finessed production, Farewell to the Theatre could seem underdeveloped.
Farewell to - theatre performance
And those who prefer their drama with more action may well complain that Michell's premiere is anti-theatrical. But it is deliberately downplayed, really beautifully calibrated. Moreover, the fascination lies in what is and what isn't being said. Chaplin's portrayal of Harley is full of subtle ambiguities: arrogance and tenderness, nonchalance and suppressed loneliness. Redgrave's mix of nerves and bruising frankness is startling, as is Watkins's raw grief, between his tweedy joviality.
Talking into the night, seated at long refectory tables that recede into the shadows radically low-lit by Rick Fisher , this is a poignant study of isolation and intimacy, impenetrability yet also collective sympathy and a rekindling joy in theatre. A young man kicks against the pricks who run his Russian hometown in A Provincial Life , adapted and directed by Peter Gill from Chekhov's short story.
Farewell to the Theatre, Hampstead Theatre
Misail Nicholas Shaw is the son of a well-to-do architect with mildly august ancestors who, seeing the entire capitalist system as corrupt, determines to toil as a manual labourer, conducting a one-man revolution. As a result, he's ostracised and lives in miserable poverty, until befriended by a bored intellectual, Maria Alex Clatworthy. They wed, but their dream of becoming beneficent landowners disintegrates. Gill has skilfully reworked Chek-hov's prose into dialogue, and his staging is choreographically fluid too, on an airily pine-clad stage.
Nonetheless, there are longueurs and sudden jumps in the compacted storyline. This chamber production is, in part, a sequence of mini-Planetarium lectures. John Mackay, in a superb solo performance, plays Max, an astrophysicist who explains the vastness of the universe and the formation of matter with thrilling lucidity, an overhead projector scattering the Milky Way on a canopy above us and across his face as he speaks.
In between these lessons, we see him happily working at home, a devoted single parent with a sweetly precocious little boy whom we never see, only hear in ghostly surround-sound, chattering about outer space. The tragedy is that Max is losing his peripheral vision, suffering from retinitis pigmentosa and Charles Bonnet Syndrome — in which the brain conjures up terrifying hallucinations.
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Farewell to the Theatre, Hampstead Theatre
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Final Say. Long reads. Lib Dems. Beatrice, the ex-pat actor, is likewise trying to get away from a doomed marriage by having a passionate affair with an undergraduate. As the twinkling Dickensian points out, they all treat America as if it were a Shakespearean forest that could transform their lives. It may not quite do that but, as Nelson artfully suggests, it does temporarily restore Granville Barker's faith in his chosen medium.
Roger Michell's exquisite production also fulfils the play's mission of interesting us in characters because of who they are as much as what they do.
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Jason Watkins as the peripatetic Dickensian burying his sadness under a Pickwickian exterior and Tara Fitzgerald as the hopelessly lovelorn Beatrice are also first-rate. And although Jemma Redgrave, as the widowed manager of the Williamstown boardinghouse, spends much of her time laying and clearing tables, everything she does reveals her unhappiness in a way that Chekhov would have approved. Topics Theatre.