Posts Tagged ‘Cherry Orchard’

This is fast becoming an essential part of the spring cultural agenda. The problem for me is that it’s too near to stay down for a few days and too far to go for a single show. Given that what I’m interested in is also spread out over the three weeks, it often means a quick day trip taking in two shows – like this year.

Marine Parade is a play-with-music (rather than a musical) by acclaimed playwright Simon Stephens and American composer Mark Eitzel. Set in and around a seedy Brighton hotel, it tells the unrelated stories of four relationships – one crumbling, one starting, one that never got off the ground and one about to revive?

It’s well staged, superbly performed and there are some good songs. If only the first 70 minutes were as good as the last 20, which were terrific. The problem is its pace – at first, the slowness is brooding and atmospheric, but then it just becomes slow and dull. More work-in-progress than finished article, I think.

I’ve seen work by site specific specialists dreamthinkspeak twice before – very successfully at the Registry Office for Scotland in Edinburgh and less successfully at an old abattoir in the City of London. This one – Before I Sleep – is the most ambitious and as successful as the first.

They’ve taken over all four floors of the former Co-op building on London Road. The reference point is Chekov’s Cherry Orchard and you are led in by Firs, the butler from that play, who’s trying to sleep. He’s talking to you agitatedly in Russian, but soon you find yourself in a modern supermarket berated by shop assistants (still in Russian) until you are moved on. What follows is a surreal journey, at first through scenes which could be part of the play, then through a snowy landscape to adverts for new apartments and into a fully functioning department store where various household items are displayed and demonstrated (still in Russian!) and on through the (now run down) apartments and a wasteland then into long empty dark rooms with the occasional film sequence referencing back to the play.

I think it shows possible events resulting from the sale of the cherry orchard, but if you’re too literalist and focus too much on the detail you miss the extraordinary experience of the journey. I thought it was spell-binding and one of the best of its kind. We now have Punchdrunk and dreamthinkspeak doing site specific work on such a grand scale, so hopefully we’ll see a lot more like this.

It took 15o creators, designers, technicians and actors to put on something that only one person enters every minute!

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