"Showcasing Chekhov's less known comedies"
by Rebecca Paton for remotegoat on 12/05/11

While Chekhov's better known plays and short stories are still regular staples of London theatre, Theatre Collection has recently turned its attention to Chekhov's large corpus of comedic sketches. Their latest production, Wife For Sale is a collection of eleven such pieces. The first six are a mostly light mixture of farce and melodrama, with larger than life characters. The five pieces after the interval move us towards the Chekhov most will recognise, with darker, more penetrating pieces where the comedy is decidedly black.

Shaban Arfiri, who adapted and directed the project, is to be praised for his selection of pieces which work well individually and collectively. Each piece is perfectly timed - none felt overlong. Arfiri was also mostly successful in discerning what parts to modernise, and what to leave alone. The incessant downing of vodka by the male characters sufficed to remind us of the tsarist Russian origins of the works. However, the characterisation of the moneylender in "Husband", while undoubtedly in keeping with Chekhov's intentions, is perhaps one which could have been airbrushed.

The cast were also excellent. With ten actors playing thirty characters across eleven pieces, it is impossible to do justice to a number of standout performances, but particularly memorable were Robert Feldman's tired and emotional bridegroom in "Happy Man" and Stuart Hillman and Edita Floren's hypocondriac couple in "Martyrs".

The venue itself, Camden's Lord Stanley, which only opened as a venue for theatre five months ago, deserves mention. It is a lovely pub, with great staff, an inviting menu and a crowd of friendly locals. When this reviewer visited on a Tuesday night, I couldn't but feel sad that too few of the latter made the trip up the stairs.

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