Review: De Kersentuin, Stadschouwberg Amsterdam

Of course a British director doing Tsjechov in the Netherlands makes The Cherry Orchard as watchable as it has ever been – Internationaal Theater Amsterdam’s De Kersentuin proves a real success

“Als ie echt verkocht moet worden verkoop mij er dan bij”

It’s not often that Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival make their way into Chekhov but it is precisely this kind of refreshing approach that makes this production feel so alive in a way that is rarely achieved (in the UK at least). So it is somewhat perverse that it is a British director responsible, as Simon McBurney directs Internationaal Theater Amsterdam in De Kersentuin, in an adaptation by Robert Icke.

Shifted to the Netherlands in the 1970s, a real sense of liberation permeates the production, and crucial details shine anew to substantively alter the emotional palette. I’ve never felt the presence of Amanda’s drowned son so strongly, which really makes you consider her feelings towards her former home. And as Miriam Buether’s design discards conventional representation, the focus falls as much on the relations of people as it does on property.

Chris Nietvelt’s Amanda (Ranevskaya) and Gijs Scholten van Aschat’s Steven (Lopakhin) are both fantastic as the central figures, respectively embodying old and new orders and the distance that necessarily must lie between them. Nietvelt is heartbreaking as a woman too smart to let self-delusion take over entirely and Scholten van Aschat’s energy as a man who needs to keep himself busy makes him a most charismatic figure.

There’s also devastatingly effective work from Janni Goslinga’s Clara (Varya), endlessly heartwrenching as so much potential slips through her fingers time after time, and Hugo Koolschijn as Frits (Firs) also proves deeply moving. Paule Constable’s lighting works wonders in this atmospheric space, especially in the striking staging of the final scene,  McBurney’s inventiveness in how he tackles each act making this an endlessly fascinating watch. I hope it comes to the Barbican soon…

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Henri Verhoef
De Kersentuin is booking in rep at Stadschouwberg Amsterdam until 19th January

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