The production of Uncle Vanya by the director Karin Beier replaces a lot of text by choreographed physical elements. The slapstick works as far as lightening up the text, but the unsubtle and none too sophisticated choreography even by fringe physical theatre standard, let alone here, is out of place and undermines the drama. Music also plays a big part: the part hidden piano and the tubular bells upstage, intermittently injecting some foreboding otherwise lacking. All the central themes of the play and important emotions such as regret, frustration and love are missing under this heavy handed treatment of the production. It may be fine with some lighter and new writing, but it is very difficult with Chekov without some major overhaul of the writing.

Set on a long narrow platform across the stage that hovers over the dark brown, barren farmland alluding to global warming, it confines the characters to a two-dimensional presence. It injects some claustrophobia in what is otherwise a vast stage and gives an all too literal visualisation as each character is rejected, by each other or life in general, and tossed off the platform. There are also some questionable casting. Not to be unkind, but Anja Lais fail to convince as the beautiful Elena, despite the numerous praises by the other characters, even if she does possess the most famine gait of the cast. Lina Beckmann as Sonja is childlike and naive but again fail to convince as a casting choice. This is perhaps the drawback of an ensemble cast which is based at the Schauspielhaus. It is uneven and lack cohesion, though it has to be said that it is always interesting because of all the out of place elements. But it is not in any way a success.


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