The Cherry Orchard Review | Royal Exchange | Manchester
Symbolically the Cherry Orchard stands for brighter days and good fortune, but the traditions of the Ranevsky family estate have long been abandoned. Neglected and derelict, the orchard now depicts the passing of an old world order. Chekhov’s 1903 play is a timeless reading of socialism vs capitalist society, privilege, gentrification, love and any other human condition you can think of.
With a minimalist set and a handful of props, it falls to the fantastic cast to depict a generation of history formed inside the great country estate. The story follows Mrs. Lyuba Ranevsky, her daughters, two brothers and their caretakers. Ranevsky has returned from Paris due to dwindling finances, to find that her family property has been so heavily mortgaged that it is about to be auctioned. The families frivolous spending habits have not been dampened by the news, with Lyuba particularly incline to continue living her lavish lifestyle. Fortunately for her, Lopakhin the son of their servant has since grown into the middle class and has a plan to generate income and cushion the impact of the family losing their estate.
For the impoverished aristocrats, all the glamour has gone. Within The Royal Exchange the shows basic, unpolished appearance makes the manor appear barren with the large cast used to flesh out the set. Kirsty Bushell (Mrs. Lyuba Ranevsky) and Jude Owusu (Yermolay Lopakhin) more than make up for the lack of furnishings. The cast interacts with the audience, use the levels of The Round to emphasise the space and place much of the action offstage. As characters react to unseen events and the audience are left to hear second-hand information the mood formed becomes intimate, relatable and full of humour.
Although the original script may have needed translating by award-winning playwright Rory Mullarkey, it has lost nothing through the years. Director Michael Boyd has not romanticised the stories focus for a contemporary audience or refreshed it with unnecessary frills. It is a fantastic production pushed by its cast and natural humour. With little remixed, the attention lavished on its actors makes the tears, silence and interaction between them far more believable and honest. For such a simplistic story, The Cherry Orchard remains a timeless staple that connects audiences through its layered characters and reverberating sentiments.