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The Cherry Orchard: Beyond the Truth

The Cherry Orchard: Beyond the Truth at C Nova. Photo: Yang Dong Min The Cherry Orchard: Beyond the Truth at C Nova. Photo: Yang Dong Min
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Chekhov has lent himself to all manner of interpretations over the decades, and here Korea’s Theater Margot goes deliciously avant-garde, mixing what looks like Russian abstractionism with Korean earthiness. It’s an undeniably quirky version, performed by a hi-energy trio in colourful loose slacks and dresses, veering between Korean and English as they isolate the story of the central character of Madame Ranevskaya and her daughter Anya and stepdaughter Varya, exposing the savage spine of Chekhov’s commentary on the upper classes.

Through hyper-realistic movement and rhythmic dialogue, often repeated to hypnotic effect, the three women trace Ranevskaya’s descent into despair as she confronts the loss of her family estate and the chopping down of her beloved cherry orchard. Her daughters – one sympathetic, the other matter of fact – respond with increasing frustration at each neurotic onslaught from their mother.

This is a great chance to experience at first hand theatre direct from Korea, although there is the classic feeling that this is designed for an EIF-style stage back home rather than a sweaty black box here on the fringe. Certainly the action feels as if it needs more room to frame it, and the frequent lack of definable text pushes this more into physical territory, leaving the text somewhat stranded.

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Quirky hi-energy Chekhov from Korea focusing on three characters