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  • Colin Fraser

NT LIVE: VANYA

THREE AND A HALF STARS Chekov's Uncle Vanya is given a one-man makeover by the National Theatre.

STAGE DRAMA UK English #VANYA

Starring Andrew Scott



Anyone who’s enjoyed the wonder of Kip Williams’ DORIAN GRAY or watched Jodie Comer in PRIMA FACIE will have some idea of what to expect here: a one person virtuoso that will leave you wondering, among other things, how they do it. One person, performing alone on stage for a couple of hours without missing a beat. Really, how do they do it?


Andrew Scott (FLEABAG’s hot priest, or more recently seen in the challenging ALL OF US STRANGERS) takes the idea up a notch in this mesmerising adaptation of Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. Not only is this a one man show but Scott plays a range of characters, most of whom are on stage at the same time. He flicks from one to another with little more than a mannerism to define his character and, for a couple of hours, he does so without missing a beat. I mean, really, how does he do it?


And it’s not like Simon Stephen’s VANYA is a walk in the park. It’s a mostly faithful, certainly complex, emotional and existential piece given an Anglo makeover and a nod or two to the trauma of our times (climate anxiety for one). So Scott has a lot to work with and he doesn’t shy away from any of it. In fact there’s so much going on that unless you’re a Chekov aficionado you may well have trouble keeping up as Scott bounces around the stage as he changes role, age, gender. Surtitles and a family tree handout wouldn’t go amiss. 


There’s an argument that this is more concept than achievement - what does a one-person version of VANYA add to the world of stage? Not a lot, but that doesn’t diminish the achievement that is Scott’s bravura performance. It is astounding, funny and on occasion, heartbreaking. What the play doesn’t reach is the inherent tragedy of the play mostly because we’re constantly obliged to chase the stagey somersaults in order to keep up with the narrative. It's a distraction that diminishes the heart of the text and our sympathy for their plight of its characters.


While VANYA is unquestionably a triumph for Scott, less so for Chekov.


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