Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

A very tasty offering

The Bear,The Anniversary and The Proposal

Highbury Theatre Centre


It's a fact that if you mention of the name Chekhov to the occasional theatre goer who is perhaps less than informed, there is often a look of dread as it conjures up an evening of a depressing analysis of Russian life in the 1800.

Now whilst some of Chekov's more serious works can lead to such a result, his short one act comedies are far from that and remain some of the funniest and tastiest ever written.

Director Liz Parry and the Highbury cast have chosen three of his best and the combination here blend smoothly together like a Robert Altman film with each individual story sharing the essence of their related themes.

First up was The Bear. A young Widow Popova, played by Becki Jay, still mourning the loss of her husband after seven months is interrupted one day by the overbearing Smirnov played by Simon Baker. Smirnov has called to collect a debt to pay his mortgage interest and as the two argue over the debts potential non-payment an odd attraction begins between the pair of them. The scene is punctuated by Luka, Popova's footman, played by Allan Lane who adds an assortment of comic entrances. What was impressive was the energy and timing everyone delivered in this opening play setting the high standard and tone for what was to come.

Next up was The Anniversary .Set in the offices of a Bank on its 15th Anniversary a sequence of `womanly' interruptions leads to the meltdown of the bank's Chairman Shipuchin played ably by Kerry Frater.

Niko Adilypour created a very amusing portrayal of Khirin the banks book keeper in an almost Eric Morecambe style. Louise Grifferty played Shipuchin's interfering wife and with Gwen Evans as the dotty Nastasya aiming to reinstate her husband's job in completely the wrong venue. The ladies thoroughly delighted in interrupting the men folk's working day.

Finally was The Proposal, perhaps the simplest of the three plays but the most difficult to deliver. Lomov played by Jack Hobbis calls on Natalya, played by Karrise Willets, to ask for her hand in marriage having to first get past her mother Sasha  played by Sheila Knapman . Whilst the other two plays were good this one was excellent with Hobbis creating as much brilliant comedy outside of the script as there is in it. Equally matched were the performances of Willets and Knapman and the play actually got me laughing out loud which is something of a rarity. 

This bite sized evening of Chekhov would be a great introduction for anyone who thinks he is too rich for a single sitting as in this serving Highbury have conjured a very entertaining and full flavoured three course menu.

 To 19-10-13.

Jeff Grant

Home Reviews A-Z Reviews by affiliate