Comrade Chekhov is not exactly known for being a barrel of laughs but somehow director Ed Bancroft manages to make at least the first couple of acts funny in places and certainly entertaining. Bancroft tweaks the plot a little by transplanting the Moscow exiles to North Yorkshire circa 1946. The allusion is that The Cold War makes return to The Sisters’ beloved Moscow more difficult.
Despite a general feeling of malcontent for various reasons, the sisters are buoyed up by the arrival of a battalion of soldiers. Olga, Maria and Irina are immaculately played by Johannah Cook, Emma Wass and Emma Fisher respectively.
In Shakespearean fashion, Aleksandr Vershinin, expertly played by John Ansari spars philosophically with Baron Tuzenbach, the ever-dependable Craig Walton who is out of his depth and loses face with the ladies.
Owen York as Andrei the underachieving brother has a smaller, understated part but he plays it to a tee. Ciara Kelly puts in an accurate performance as Natasha his wife from hell.
There’s a myriad of plot strands here: affairs, suicide, jealous duels. Plus philosophical minefields: the bliss but also the divine comedy of life. Bancroft doesn’t allow the second two acts to descend into melodrama however. There are plenty of dispiriting events but ultimately it’s in the heads of the players. Indeed even Ivan Chebutykin concludes, “What of it?” Life goes on.
There were some sensational period costumes on display.
Apt also for setting the scene were the many wireless announcements including Denis Compton hitting a century.