FRINGE REVIEW: CHEKOV AT THE PUB, THE KINGS HEAD, 2019

Black Cat Theatre presents Chekov at the Pub; a selection of short plays by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov.A small local company taking on a Russian magnate-writer might seem very ambitious; but Chekov’s modern themes, and classic humour allow such a production to shine without a hitch.

A simple set of a few chairs and a bleak winter backdrop filled with lively creatures, characters; like an aquarium of brightly coloured, ever fascinating fish. The cast of five take the stage, hastily playing homage to three Chekov’s classics Swan Song, The Cherry Orchard, and the Seagull. Acting as an entrée for the upcoming ‘main’, the actors are given time to stretch their creative legs in the longer acts following.

(See the show for yourself if you want a plot synopsis, or read the plays themselves. It’s hardly underground work).

As the cast satiate themselves with their characters, so too does the audience into the world of 1800s Russia. In the Bear, Caroline Birkett produces an admirable scowl that could curdle milk as Madame Popova, snobbishly denying the ever constant requests of the uncouth Smirnov.

Isaac Gates presents the health seminar, Smoking is Bad for You, as he consistently distracts himself and the audience drifting to the topic of his overbearing, dictator-like wife. His pleas for sympathy to the audience is comparable to the sit-com Married with Children. Some themes rarely change.

Tim Rodgers plays a variety of lackies, serfs, and an oppressed suitor with uncanny despondency. The Proposal is an excellent example of this. A man looking so tired and defeated as his proposed future-fiancé creates tension and drama at every turn; you hope his thousand-yard stare is a credit to his acting ability.

Directing the compilation play, Andrew Jefferis fills in the intermediary characters breaking up scenes, opening doors, and playing the father Chubukov in the Proposal. Producing a number of laughs on his own, his talent really lies in the selection and tailoring each of the own characters to a corresponding actor; fitted like a second skin.

The shows standout is undeniably Hebe Sayce. Drawing the crowd’s attention in every minor part she plays, the audience is enamoured with her interpretation of the insatiable fan Murashkina in The New Writer. Throwing herself in admiration of a famous writer (played by an exasperated Ms Birkett), Hebe is hell-bent on reading out a play she has written. Undeterred by the groans, snores, and exasperated monologues of her idol as he writhes with boredom; Hebe leaves the audience laughing at every turn with a face so sincere, she contends with Joan D’Arc in earnestness and intensity.

An excellent cast, a great selection of plays; it’s fair to say, “I’ve taken a liking, dimples and all”.

Purchase tickets here for Chekov at the Pub. Playing only two more nights at the Kings Head, get in quick as seats are quickly taken.

4 Stars.

By Grace. Kungel

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