With preparations for previews well under way, The Cherry Orchard’s Assistant Director Evan Lordan takes us through what we can expect from Acts 3 and 4 in Chekhov’s final masterpiece.
Act 3 gets wilder each time we look at it; after ‘nothing’ happening twice in Acts 1 and 2 (Seinfeld fans will be pleased!), Act 3 is a proper roller coaster. You can expect live music, waltzing, magic tricks, unexpected entrances, unanticipated disappearances, fights, reconciliations, cruelty, kindness and plot twists! All this despite the fact that, as per usual, Chekhov has decided to place the main dramatic action off-stage and so the rollercoaster that we witness is an emotional and psychological one. Chekhov is so good at creating the backdrop and circumstances that all at once he can mirror one character’s emotional and mental state and totally undercut another’s. “It wasn’t the time to invite musicians. It wasn’t the time for a ball…” says Ranyevskaya. Quite, but that is why it is just so perfect; he is always playful, he is always devastating.
By the time we get to Act 4, it really should all be worked out, but that would be far too easy. While this Act gives the majority of characters a sort of closure (for better or worse), for one couple there is one of the most awkward and awful ‘proposal’ scenes in the history of theatre. You’ll not be able to look away, but you’ll want to. You might even laugh, but probably only to stop you from crying.
Today we’re going back for another sweep of Act 1, bringing with us everything we’ve learned from the other three Acts. Now these characters have got real meat on their bones. It’s amazing to see this cast hitting their stride; where interactions ‘worked’ during previous runs, now sparks fly! In some places that’s right and not so much in others, but the texture and complexity of the text is really coming to life in the rehearsal room.
The actors are going through a process, but so too is Director Michael Boyd. The marks being hit during initial rehearsals that seemed satisfactory before are now nowhere near our new ambitions. His understanding of the play is being shaped by the actors’ and characters’ development each day. We have been blessed with a six-week rehearsal process, but we will need every minute of it… this show will continue to shift and change in that time, and throughout the run too. This is what will keep the show alive. Just when the actors think they have it all figured out, The Cherry Orchard will throw something new at them. It will give them reason to reconsider everything that they thought they knew about it. These revelations will in turn shift the lines for their colleagues, creating a chain reaction. It’s set to be one hell of an evening’s live and alive entertainment.