I found Howard Davies' production of Chekhov's CHERRY ORCHARD at the National to be alternately soporific and infuriating. Draining the play of most of its humor goes against the grain of this play and Chekhov's other work. Seeing the play as a presage of what will follow in Russia belies the play's spirit. Lopahin becomes more angry and nasty than usual, therefore not sympathetic. Pyotr becomes an ardent revolutionary instead of an eternal student preaching the value of work without doing any work. Zoe Wanamaker's Madame Ranevskaya is so concerned with her ailing lover in Paris and her dead son that she is not at all involved in the present. There's lots of sound and fury in the production but Chekhov's round characters seemed very flat.
Then there's the Olivier problem. The Olivier works for a large-scale play like EMPEROR AND GALILIEAN. This is the second CHERRY ORCHARD I have seen in there and both productions have been swallowed up by the scale of the theatre and the size of that open stage. The theatre seems to slow the play down and drain it of energy.
The sets were those same fading white walls and multiple windows that seem to recycly through every National Theatre production of a Russian play. It seems to be their "Russian set." I have seen it too often.
THE CHERRY ORCHARD. National Theatre Olivier Theatre. June 28, 2011.