This is a fascinating adaptation by director Helena Kaut-Howson, of Chekhov’s first full length play, Platonov. Cut down to the nail, yet still focusing on the pivotal character, Mikhail (Misha) Platanov played by Jack Laskey (credits include Royal Shakespeare Company).
Set in modern day Russia, the storyline remains true, apart from a few changed references. Post Soviet Russia (from 1991) saw major economic downturn resulting in a harsh decline in social welfare, the majority of the people existing in a political landscape where the rich are getting richer and the poor, even poorer; so the context fits.
And so what happens? Crime happens. More murders, suicides and accidents happen. Reports of alcohol related illnesses rise as does the death rates. And this band of trapped and hapless individuals, try to escape their predicaments by drinking hard.
The crux of the play is the point of Micha. His friends and family seek his approval. He is detached, sharp tongued and opinionated. Everyone loves a rogue they say and his party are all happy to be an audience for him. Even university attending, Isaac Vengerovich (Oliver Hoare) who goads and challenges the very fabric of Micha wishes he had an ounce of his charisma. Micha rides high on the euphoria he feels of being put on a pedestal and is a constant magnet for womanly attention.
Yet the intelligent, but disaffected Misha, steeped in drunken cynicism for most of the time, has no emotional stability. He is but a child inside, a fatherless one at that, and it is debateable that his behaviour has any bearing on that condition.
Unfortunately for Misha he is on a one way trip to disaster, and after the interval we see a downturn in Misha’s state of being. Laskey spends more time horizontal than he seems to standing up and some scenes labour a little, nevertheless there is some violent action including gun shots.
Set Design: Iona McLeish presents a set which reflects chaos and shoddiness, and has developed a sense of insecurity and remoteness in the setting using various conditions of metal as a theme.
Sound: I have to mention too, that the collaboration between Kaut-Howson; composer, Boleslaw Rawski and sound designer, Paul Bull is the best example of spatial music I have experienced to date.
Professionally presented it was obvious due to the applause received that this play was enjoyed by all attending collectively. Sons Without Fathers is at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, running in B2 from Sat 13 April to Sat 4 May.
Tom Canton as Sergei Voynitsev
Oliver Hoare as Isaac
Mark Jax as Osip
Jack Laskey as Mikhail Platonov
Amy McAllister as Sasha
Marianne Oldham as Sophia
Simon Scardfield as Nikolai Triletsky
Susie Trayling as Anna Petrovna
Jade Williams as Maria Grekova
Local performers Benjamin Lesley, Amy Thompson, Chris Penk and Christopher Old are members of the cast.
*** THREE STARS
Note: Reviewer attended the show on behalf of Remotegoat Stage, Click here to view.