Alfresco touring company Miracle Theatre has abandoned the high speed entrances and exits on bicycles from last year`s production of Flann O`Brien`s Irish satire The Third Policeman. The company remains as determined as ever, however, to challenge convention with Anton Chekhov`s rather more familiar The Cherry Orchard.
Director Bill Scott, founder of the Cornwall-based theatrical ground-breakers, goes in search of Chekhov`s own description of his final play as a comedy by removing much of its `Russian-ness` and changing most of the names.
He sees Miracle Theatre`s remit as exploring just how weird and self-centred the characters are. This works well at the start and in the knockabout scenes in the second half. But as the production rows back to the Chekhov theme of a privileged world in denial over the passing of the old order – with unrequited love thrown in for good measure – the laughs become rather more forced.
Jill Greenacre brings pathos as well as financial recklessness to impoverished landowner Luella (the production’s name for Lyubov Ranyevskaya), while the other five actors double and treble with varying success.
Ben Kernow`s teaming of the risibly doddering butler Firs with the self-made entrepreneur Parkin (Pyotr Trofimov in the original) is the most impressive, alongside Rose McPhilemy as love-lorn Valerie (Vavara Mikhailovna) and gun-toting governess Charlotte (Charlotta Ivanovna).
Despite the production`s ambitions to be an open-air summer laugh-fest, it is rather more successful in mapping out the tensions between the desperate longing to cling to what is familiar with the restless lure of the new.