There is a rare and special moment in theatre when an ensemble fits together so perfectly, so neatly, that a kind of magic happens. So it is with the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Hungarian director Tamás Ascher has drawn together a stellar cast with Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving, John Bell, Hayley McElhinney, Sandy Gore and Jackie Weaver, and the wealth of that collective talent shows. Any thoughts of dull, dark, melancholic Russian theatre are swept aside in this vibrant, energetic production.
Vanya (Roxburgh) and his niece Sonia (McElhinney)’s simple country life has been disrupted by the arrival of the overbearing, egotistical Professor (Bell) and his distractingly beautiful second wife Yelena (Blanchett). Into this hothouse comes Doctor Astrov (Weaving), Vanya’s closest friend, and soon a love triangle, or pentagram, ensues.
All the performances are stunning, but no doubt the show belongs to Roxburgh and Weaving, the tormented moths jostling around Blanchett’s luminous flame. Bell, in a rare non-Shakespearean role, is a treat while McElhinney is convincingly wretched. Credit must be shared with Andrew Upton for a spot-on adaptation.
After thunderous applause, the impressive after-show crowd gathered. David Williamson, Neil Armfield, Brendan Cowell, Toby Schmitz, Claudia Karvan and Barry Otto were all spotted, as was the Governor General Quentin Bryce. And once the cast joined the party, the revelry continued late into the night.
Visit www.sydneytheatre.com.au for more information. Uncle Vanya is showing at the Sydney Theatre Company until 1 January, 2011.