Rapture Theatre's Uncle Varick offers new take on Chekhov classic
New production transports Uncle Vanya to rural Scotland of the 1960s
Rapture might be populist in their choice of plays, but they are equally eclectic. Last time they connected to the spirit of the Bay City Rollers for Shang-a-Lang; this time they go back to a Russian classic, updated by one of the great Scottish dramatists. ‘I am really chuffed because I can’t remember the last time a Chekhov play toured Scotland,’ says director Michael Emans. ‘Or a John Byrne play, for that matter!’
Thanks to works like The Slab Boys, Byrne has a reputation for comedies that use the Scottish vernacular, and his recent translation of The Cherry Orchard made a few satirical strikes against Thatcherism. Emans observes that this translation retains a contemporary resonance as well. Uncle Varick brings Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya to the rural Scotland of the 1960s. A story of failed ambition and, in this version, a dishonest critic, it has that distinctive Chekhov tone between laughter and tears. Jimmy Chisholm, an actor equally at home in pantomime or tragedy, is taking on the title role. ‘We have Scotland’s funniest writer,’ he notes. ‘I don’t think that you’ll be in any doubt that it is a comedy.’
‘The joy is that it meshes the two together,’ adds Emans. Chekhov saw his plays as comedies.’ It is this ambiguity that makes Chekhov such a perfect match for Rapture: the underlying seriousness is sweetened by the humour. Having worked with Emans in The Collection, Chisholm is enthusiastic about the company: ‘Theatre has got to get out and find audiences, and Rapture goes to lots of places that other people aren’t taking it,’ he says.
Emans concurs. ‘I know that a group of women are coming to see Varick because they enjoyed Shang-a-Lang,’ he laughs. ‘From the Bay City Rollers to Chekhov: that’s a journey!’
Eastwood Park Theatre, Glasgow, Sun 4 May; King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 7– Sat 10 May