Cherry orchard in the round

It is great to go back to this classic text, as it is play I know well having designed it many years ago at Nottingham playhouse, but it was intriguing to see how Rory Mullarkey (writer) and Michael Boyd (direction)would approach the play. It is always a challenge to go back to a play you think you know and find new meanings and insights into the text and how the play reads now in these times of great change and social fluidity.
Because this is a co production with Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre , which is in the round, we wanted to create as close a playing space for the actors in both theatres and to get that close relationship between them and the audience that in the round theatre gives, in which actors and audience are in the same space sharing the same air and very aware of each other reactions.
So, the challenge in Bristol was to work with the beautiful listed auditorium and make it truly feel that the audience are encircling the action and that there is no up stage or downstage or preferred view point. So we decided that the seating on stage should match the balcony structures of the theatre so it is as democratic a space as possible. We have thrust out into the auditorium with a curved fore stage which conceals a revolve, which we plan to use in a symbolic way to perhaps evoke the sense of outdoors or the mad whirl of the party.
So the auditorium becomes the loved , yet shabby old house. As it is a theatre we are using a red curtain to start and finish the piece and it may be part of the party too, when we hope to illuminate the whole space with festoon lights. The space changes very little from act to act as the theatre is the house, it remains throughout and when we move outdoors we hope that simple gestures such as a wooden ladder and bench will evoke the sense of the countryside, the ladder used to climb the trees for harvest but also a symbol of impending renovations and building once the orchard is sold. The main development over the acts will be in costume where we plan to move from a sense of 1905 at the beginning through the summer acts to a definitely more chilly feeling of the present day. This is hopefully not a ‘concept’ rather a way of slowly stripping away the distance that full period costume sometimes creates to our full engagement with the characters to a simpler revelation of their natures and how the situations in the play still reverberate with our modern audience visible in the in the round staging. By the end the actors should become like us.

great reviews like this from The Guardian


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