King’s Theatre
31 August, 1–5 September (ex. 2) various times.

AfterplayAn ‘endless tundra of loneliness’ has stretched in front of Andrey and Sonya, only to be briefly arrested by a chance meeting in a Moscow café.

Taking Sonya from Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and Andrey from Three Sisters, Brian Friel has presented the characters twenty years after the original plots. Sonya continues to struggle with life’s burdens and seems resigned to her fate; Andrey presents a dishevelled, downtrodden figure, punctuated by bouts of forced optimism.

Mainly through Andrey, Friel has managed to inject humour into the performance and in the limbo of the café both characters manage to briefly escape from their past lives. This often takes the shape of Sonya and Andrey inventing, lying and drinking themselves into pleasant fantasies, and continues the familiar psychological theme in Chekhov’s writing of the imagination often dominating reality.  Despite their brief respite, Sonya especially seems anchored to her past, and speaks of Dr Astrov and the estate she has been tasked to manage.

Inverting the Yalta Game, Afterplay also presents a transitory and fleeting engagement, with a tragic potential for a more lasting relationship. As a result the play is tinged with impending depression.

Frances Barber and Niall Buggy both caught the uneasy and often erratic exchanges between the characters, although their performances were slightly clunky, and perhaps deliberately, separated. Barber and Buggy certainly lacked the natural ease which O’Mara and Cooper displayed in the Yalta Game.

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