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From The Socialist newspaper, 8 November 2017

Theatre: The Cherry Orchard

Welsh update of Chekhov an engrossing tale of 1980s class conflict

Gary Owen's adaptation of 'The Cherry Orchard'

Gary Owen's adaptation of 'The Cherry Orchard'   (Click to enlarge)

Scott Jones

The Cherry Orchard is set in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in 1982. Yes, that's right. It's a modern retelling of the original written by Anton Chekhov just before the first Russian revolution in 1905. And it's brilliant.

Action revolves around an old manor house on the west Wales coast, home to farms, orchards, a wealthy family and the estate's workers. But there's trouble ahead. The bank is threatening repossession, forcing the family to find a solution or lose everything.

The supposed head of the English landowning family is Rainey, the perfect embodiment of her class. She is arrogant, lazy, with complete contempt for her staff, the poor, the Welsh, even her own family. She is forced to return from living it up at the Dorchester in London to address the crisis.

As the family argues, the dialogue is hilarious and peppered with references - both musical and political - to 1982: music and the class conflict of Thatcher's Britain.

The latter is injected by bolshie locals Dottie, the manor's housekeeper played brilliantly by Alexandria Riley, and Ceri, an unemployed socialist who falls in love with one of the family's daughters.

Both are funny, passionate and angry; quick to defend their local council estate, and remind the family of some home truths.

There are numerous examples of the difference between these two worlds. But the most striking is death and grief.

It affects everyone, of course. But Dottie rages at the fact her first day working at the manor, at the age of 16, came the day after her father died.

She was forced to work to keep food on the table. Meanwhile Rainey, after her own loss, set herself up in a posh London flat and went on a ten-year bender.

I've not seen the original, but a glance at its plot shows the themes remain the same. An out-of-touch upper class; gross inequality; the masses and poor increasingly confident - all set to the backdrop of great change around the corner.

Part of 'R17', a series of events by arts organisations in Wales to mark the centenary of the Russian revolution, this play is worthy of the connection - as well as being a laugh-out-loud funny, engrossing, thought-provoking drama in its own right.

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In The Socialist 8 November 2017:


What we think

'Paradise' for billionaires - austerity for us


Socialist Party news and analysis

Westminster sexual harassment scandal

Walk out against tuition fees!

Bosses say 217 years to close pay gap - workers' struggle can close it now!

We can win the vote at 16!

Child poverty set to hit 5.2m - unions and Corbyn must act now

PFI privateers dodge tax

What we saw


Workplace news and analysis

Pay cap decisively rejected by PCS union members

BA mixed-fleet workers show strikes get results

Unite union sector conferences: coordinate action over pay

Picturehouse strike: "evil corporations are evil"

Arriva bus strike still solid


International socialist news and analysis

US: Minneapolis Socialist chimes with voters

Ireland: rail workers demand share of 'recovery'

Ireland: dangerous ideas for the ruling class

Spain: Madrid rally celebrates October revolution

Sweden: 'Revolution2017' success


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Health campaign discusses strategy to save NHS

Chatsworth neuro-rehab ward still open - unions join the campaign

Housing campaigners ask Corbyn to instruct Labour council regeneration ballots

Thousands march in London for Palestine

Opposition to new academy school being built on Leeds playing fields

Orgreave campaigners' Halloween 'Death of Justice' march

Sheffield trees campaigner sentenced to prison

Brum meeting celebrates centenary of 1917


Socialist readers' comments and reviews

Obituary: Derek Robinson, car workers' leader, 1927-2017

Welsh update of Chekhov an engrossing tale of 1980s class conflict

Obituary: Paul Randall, 1959-2017

The Socialist inbox


 

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