The Salon Varietes Theatre in Fuengirola brought us a slice of turn-of-the-nineteenth century Russian life last week. Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov was written five years before the playwright’s tragic early death at the age of 44 from tuberculosis. The play is set in a large country estate in Siberia and explores the themes of unfulfilled ambition and unrequited love.
Most of the tension in the play focuses on the jealousy and ambivalence of the main protagonist Vanya towards his brother-in-law, the gout-ridden but successful ‘professor’, (both parts played ably and with passion by Roland Quesnel and Stephen Tomlinson respectively). This culminates in Vanya’s unsuccessful attempt to shoot the professor dead, a scene which brings to a head all the other passions bubbling beneath the surface, namely the romantic yearnings of both Vanya and Dr. Astrov, (amusingly portrayed by Brian McDonnell), for the professor’s young and beautiful wife, Yelena (a fine performance by Christie Nicholas), coupled with Vanya’s sister Maria’s unreciprocated love for the doctor, (played with feeling by June Williamson).
The forces of high drama and comic relief were well-balanced in this production by the cool direction of Henrik Hagensen who, aided by John Pyne, created a minimalist, functional stage set which the actors changed themselves between scenes, (more reminiscent of Brecht than Stanislavsky).
The pastiche of dramatic styles didn’t end there. Melodramatic music and acting were employed to comic effect in the love scenes and in the representation of the storm, and further light relief was gleaned from ‘Waffles’s’ (Stephen Burns) deliberate failure to play his ‘Balalaika’ at the same time as the taped score, and from Jean Fenton’s philosophical, tea-obsessed ‘old nurse’.
Altogether this was a very entertaining night, in a charming theatre in the centre of Fuengirola. At the end of the month I believe the troupe will be entertaining us with a musical review ‘Music!Music!Music!’ which I for one look forward to greatly.