You know what it’s like. At the time of booking, a night out seems like such a good idea. Then the date comes around. And it’s February. It’s cold. It’s raining and blowing a hooley. Suddenly a night in your jammies in front of The Good Karma Hospital with a bar of chocolate seems far more tempting.
But, never let it be said we’re not brave. We donned waterproofs, made sure the dogs had heating, and Radio Two for company and ventured forth.
Our destination was the very beautifully situated Marine Theatre in Lyme Regis. There can’t be many theatres with as good a setting. It’s right on the sea front, tucked behind the Philpot Museum and town hall. Not that we lingered to enjoy the sea view. Storm Doris had given birth to Ewan and he kindly blew us along from where we’d parked.
The theatre had set up tables nearest the stage, with rows of seating behind. As we were first in we baggsied a table and headed for the bar. There’s something very civilised about relaxing in a theatre with a large glass of white. The night out was warming up.
We were booked in to see this:
European Arts Company Chekhov’s Shorts. Now, I’m not the biggest Chekhov fan, that honour belongs to hubby. I’ve seen my fair share of productions of The Seagull and Three Sisters though and performed Masha at school. These five short plays are rarely performed so it was a good chance to see them.
The Evils of Tobacco opened the show. A monologue, it was the tragic-comic story of a hen-pecked middle-aged husband disappearing in a houseful of women. At first, the audience was unsure whether to laugh or sympathise. I find I do both with Chekhov. I never understood how he keeps us on a knife-edge of comedy and tragedy. Then I got to know some Russians and understood better; this quality is in their genetic make-up. This theme of hopping wildly from tragedy to comedy and then back again in quick succession continued throughout the evening.
The Dimwit followed, with Captain Sousov outlining to the town matchmaker what he needed in a wife and getting rather more than he expected. With The Bear we were in more familiar, farce territory. Apparently, the play became a huge hit in Chekhov’s lifetime, especially with amateur groups. The playwright complained, ‘every lady I meet begins an acquaintance with me by saying “I’ve acted in your Bear!”’. Featuring all three members of the cast, it was extremely funny. Shades of Flashheart in Will Hartley’s Grigory Stepanovitch Smirnov who came calling for his debt to be paid. And all the funnier for it. Eva Savage put in a nuanced and very funny performance as professional widow Elena.
Swansong and The Proposal followed the interval. For me, the highlight of the whole evening was Swansong. It’s the story of ageing actor Vassily Vassilyitch Svetlovidov who becomes accidentally locked in the theatre in which he’d just performed. It was both touching and blackly humorous. And terribly sad. A tour de force of acting by Rupert Mason.
We laughed. We cried. We laughed some more. Well worth braving the blustery weather and a storm called Ewan. If you’d like to check out some Chekhov, the European Arts Company are touring Chekhov’s Shorts throughout March and April. More details here:
And, as a footnote, if you’re in the area, do go to the Marine Theatre. It’s a friendly, low-key sort of theatrical experience and is worthy of support. Details here: