Not-a-Review: The Harvest, Royal Court

“Apple-picking is really cool”

The Royal Court’s International Playwrights Season turns its gaze to Eastern Europe now, with main show the Latvian Remembrance Day opening this week and two rehearsed readings accompanying it from other former Soviet countries. The first was from Belarus, The Harvest by Pavel Pryazhko and translated here by Sasha Dugdale, a deceptively simple but wickedly funny comedy about four young people picking apples in an orchard.

I’ve enjoyed the previous readings I’ve been to so I would most likely have booked for this one anyway, but as soon as I discovered that the much-lauded (on this blog at least!) John Heffernan was taking part, it was a no-brainer. But it was also pleasing to see the rest of the cast being interesting names too: David Dawson (an alumnus of Posh from downstairs here), and Laura Elphinstone and Emily Taaffe, both of whom I’ve seen and liked but in fairly serious roles, so it was a great pleasure to see everyone breaking loose and playing with the daftness in the comedy of Pryazhko’s writing and all doing really well.

I don’t think there’s any way to do the play justice in just how funny it was by describing what happened as it was basically four people making a hash of what should have been quite a simple job as basic common sense eludes some, masculine egos get in the way for others and those pesky apples just won’t stay in their crates. James McDonald’s enthusiastic direction made this one of the most ‘acted’ readings I’ve been to, with lots of movement which certainly helped, but possibly the funniest aspect was Kevin McMonagle’s dry narration of the stage directions, never has ‘it started to snow’ sounded so funny.

It was most refreshing to see such an out and out comedy, the like of which we don’t necessarily see so much with new writers in the UK and certainly not at the Royal Court, and of course there was much pleasure to be had in hearing Heffernan enunciate words like firm and juicy with such relish, but all five actors did a sterling job here. Only one more reading is left in this season, Pagans, though it is already sold out now and I have to say I’m really looking forward to it.

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