UNCLE VANYA at the Almeida Theatre, London

Let’s start with a disclaimer, shall we?

I’m not a “professional” critic, nor, sad to say, even a regular theatre-goer these days.  (Further disclaimer : I live in New Delhi, and so am many, many miles from anything remotely resembling London’s amazing theatre life.)

Even so, the level of bowled-over-ness and “oh-my-God-that was-amazing”-ness that was on display after seeing “Uncle Vanya” yesterday afternoon at the gorgeous little Almeida Theatre was impressive.  And that was from my 2 London girlfriends who go to the theatre constantly, and who are both terrifyingly knowledgable about the city’s theatre scene.

I was just rendered speechless and on an emotional high after a wonderful, visually exciting, moving performance.

The Almeida Theatre is an amazingly intimate space, which the staging of the play fully exploits.  From time to time the actors hop down from the stage set and talk directly to the audience.  I was sitting in the third row, and felt as though they were chatting personally, so goodness knows how the lucky audience members in the front row felt.

It seems invidious to single out any one member of this accomplished cast.  They were all excellent.  Truly.

But Paul Rhys as John is stunning.  He seems to deteriorate before our eyes during the course of the play, not just in language and expression, but also in shape.  He looks thinner and older by the end of the show.

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But every actor is truly superb.

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The set is an ingenious slowly revolving cube that means that your literal view of the scene unfolding in front of you is constantly changing.  The tempo is slow and languid and yet each time there was a brief 10 minute interval, we couldn’t believe how quickly the time had flown by.  I loved the language of the new translation, which felt fresh and contemporary without ever sounding gimmicky. It was also very, very funny at times.

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Truly fabulous.

Recommended.

We paid for our tickets and (I fear) no one at the Almeida knows that I blog…

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