The Cherry Orchard

The Cherry Orchard was premièred on the eve of 1991, a Christmas present from the theatre. One might ask: what links can be traced between Chekhov’s play and our present life? It is a good time to see how someone feels about his property, to sell it or not. It’s wonderful, but the play has a presentiment for tragic events, which shortly afterwards shook Lithuania and the whole world. I asked myself: how can one comprehend such a coincidence? The classic of another nation, from a strange epoch, but I get a feeling of our tragic destiny: between oppression, injustice and freedom.

Ten years ago, Rimas Tuminas wrote: ‘In my productions, one always says goodbye to history, to ordinary life … Like sap running down a tree, the life runs out of us … That is why our farewell should be dignified and wise.’ These words contain the aura of The Cherry Orchard. It is always tragic when you lose your native land, your mother country, when you lose your house for ever, or so the play seems to say. Strength of spirit is needed to withstand the trials of fate. We should not think that Tuminas looks at life and the theatre through a dark veil. The Cherry Orchard is the most tragic of his sighs. His other plays are theatrically playful, full of lively colours. And the characters of The Cherry Orchard do not torment themselves over problems of existence: they laugh, play jokes, and flutter about like butterflies. With his calm temperament and his artistic attitude, Tuminas is dignified and moderate. He creates plays about eternal issues: ordinary people and everyday life, old age and youth, and loneliness. He looks for kindness, for a meaning to life in those who suffer. To love people is a humanistic axiom of Tuminas. He creates his plays carefully, he does not hurry, he trusts absolutely in his actors; for him, they are the most valuable objects in the theatre. He has long intervals between premières.

Julius Lozoraitis

 

Reviews:

The famous Italian theatre director Giorgio Strehler shrewdly defined the The Cherry Orchard as ‘vaudeville, tragedy, farce, drama’. The production by Tuminas comprises all these principal theatrical genres. In his play, vaudeville characters dominate, but they frolic in front of the door of the nursery, behind which we would find ourselves in a funeral. These are two different worlds, unable to help each other, unable even to speak to each other. Rimas Tuminas, in the manner of the legendary director Peter Brook, renounces the landscapes dear to Chekhov, he even renounces the sight of the cherry orchard, because he has staged a play not about trees and beauty, but about people. The theme of perishing beauty, of definitevly lost harmony, is incarnated in the figure of Ranevskaya, interpreted by Eglė Gabrėnaitė.

Valdas Vasiliauskas, Lietuvos aidas

 

The director squeezes his company, the State Small Theatre of Vilnius, into expressionistic corsets of drowsy impassivity and feigned indifference […] Throughout, the conversation falters, yielding to drawn-out silences or to the composer Faustas Latenas’ melancholic soundtrack of piano chords, wind chimes, and departing trains. By dislocating the action from the text, Tuminas casts a shadow over the childish acts, indolence and frivolity that prop up this doomed bourgeois existence. Such laughter as there is is weighted with menace […] Time and again, Tuminas almost snaps the text in his attempt to bend it to the coldness and violence of his vision. The old bookcase cherished by Ranevskaya’s doddering brother becomes an agent of death, crashing through the rafters.

Dominic Cavendish, Communication Breakdown in the Orchard, The Independent

 

You’ve never seen The Cherry Orchard in blossom like this before. In fact no matter how many productions we’ve seen of this Chekhov classic, this is the first time we’ve really seen it […] It blatantly gets away with breaking many conventions – actors sitting with their backs to the audience, standing in set groups or wandering off to sit on the edge of the apron […] It goes from almost cartoon comedy to dark drama. And it all works, gloriously. Just as the production is so different – so non-English – so, too, is the style of acting. It is very physical. These actors perform with all their bodies, from facial expression to toe movements, but fade to stillness when out of action.

Geoff Hammerton, Cherry Orchard’s Magical First, Derby Evening Telegraph Review

 

The Cherry Orchard is a play about people who do not know how to make up their minds. They live their lives as if nothing has changed, and they are too afraid to adapt. This play, like almost all the great creations of this dramatist, is also an image of pre-Revolution Russia … The scene of the presentation of Ranevskaya – when she returns to her estate after years spent in Paris – is one of the best examples of how the director, Rimas Tuminas, knows how to gather together actors who can play without words. The family, the domestics, the friends who stand in a procession around her, create an extraordinary atmosphere. A Lithuanian theatre company with a Russian writer is a ray of hope as the ancient walls are forgotten. Friends from Vilnius, thank you.

Elif Straume, A Theatre from Lithuania, Norwegian Daily Newspaper

 

What characterises Rimas Tuminas’ production is the […] revelation of the weaknesses of all of Chekhov’s characters, which turns the play into a black comedy of the absurd. Tuminas uses devices which I found strange and unexpected, because I could not relate them to the text … Everyone acted in a closed, tragic world. But just before the end of Act Three, when Lopakhin has bought the estate and returns drunk, an instant of human understanding chimes. There is an equally beautiful moment when Varya hopes that Lopakhin will – at last – propose, but is cruelly disappointed. At these moments, we hear a human note in Tuminas’ production. It was a strange and interesting evening.

Idalou Larsen, Amazingly Strange, Norske Argus

 

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