A play by Maxim Gorky in a version
by Botho Strauss and Peter Stein. Translated by Michael Robinson.
Company: Chichester Studio Company
Venue: Minerva Studio Theatre
Sam Mendes, Director
May 19 – June 17, 1989

Kropilkin: Tom Hollander
Kaleria : Kate Duchene
Role unknown: Lesley Sharp
Lawyer's clerk infatuated with an older woman:Sam Graham
Dishonourable writer: Peter McEnery
Hearty horsewoman: Angela Thorne
No-nonsense country heiress: Sarah Woodward
Conniving lawyer: John Rogan
Engineer blasted by alcohol: Dermot Crowley
Role unknown: Caroline Loncq
Role unknown: Chris Hunter
Woman Doctor: Dearbhla Molloy

More information when it is available.



Superb surgery; Theatre
By Jeremy Kingston
The Times (London)
May 23 1989

Summerfolk, Minerva Studio, Chichester
After several years performing inside a striped tent, the Chichester Studio Company now has permanent premises, part of a group of buildings that includes a club room and spacious restaurant. Its thrust stage is the same size as that of the main theatre, the acoustics seem excellent and, to cap it all, the opening production is one of the finest Chichester has ever given us.

Gorky's play was produced in the same year as Chekhov's Cherry Orchard but already we are in a changed world. It is as though the creaking cherry tree has been chopped down and replaced with Dachas where the townees can come and take the country air. These are the Summerfolk, lawyers, doctors, engineers; professionals whose parents were little more than serfs. They are the generation that could be building a new Russia. But here they are, says Gorky, just as selfish and discontented as the old lot, and in a way worse because they are closer to the still uneducated masses whom they should be helping.

On the wide white courtyard in front of an open verandah (fine set by Paul Farnsworth), the bachelors, married couples and solitary spinster (Kate Duchene, twisting her head like a curious bird) play chess, flirt, meet for picnics and complain about midges. Meanwhile, in the better-spirited of them, anger is mounting until it boils over in a most satisfying climax.
Sam Mendes, artistic director of the Studio and on this showing a man of subtle theatrical judgement, uses a version of the text that has swapped scenes, cut characters, altered entrances, all in the interest of clarity. The surgery is bold, the result superb. To take one instance, the single scene between two morose watchmen has been divided into several short episodes so as to give this pair the same function as a chorus.

The handling of the groups from the exquisite opening where the characters, all dressed in white, stroll on in their own time, to the larger scenes surging with emotion, is direction of the highest quality. Performances are rich in unobtrusive reactions, silent glances, small gestures of hands, that give exceptional conviction to the characters.

Michael Robinson's translation is fluent and funny. Prominent among an outstanding cast are Lesley Sharp and Sam Graham, leading the revolt against idleness, with Peter McEnery playing the dishonourable writer, languidly unworried about injured labourers but really impatient with the mosquitoes.


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