Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard is surely one of the staples of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, to be found here year on year in a variety of different guises. This year, the superb Korean group Theater Margot, use the play as the catalyst for a piece of high energy physical theatre—The Cherry Orchard: Beyond the Truth— staged minimally and presented very capably by only three performers.
Theater Margot take Chekhov’s original and translate it linguistically, temporally and culturally, purposely allowing much detail to be lost along the way. Something that is both concentrated and essential is left, expressed vocally and corporeally with enormous intensity by the performers. What the characters’ words belie, their bodies cannot help but articulate: tension, fear, helplessness and anger are all here. At the same time, much of this is comic and very funny, and it is worth remembering that although there is a tendency for productions to emphasise The Cherry Orchard’s tragic qualities, it was originally conceived as a comedy by Chekhov.
A very slick and very competent piece of physical theatre, the small studio space it is performed in only serves to enhance the feeling of claustrophobia and anxiety it generates. There is so much energy here that the audience cannot be absolutely sure it will be entirely contained within the confines of the small stage, and indeed the action does occasionally spill out into the front rows.
This is absolutely the sort of thing the Fringe should be about: quirky, international, excellent quality new work, performed enthusiastically at a very high standard.