Bean and Coleman don’t put a foot wrong. Briskly plotted, dizzily paced with doors flying shut and open with split-second timing, revealing and concealing the players with all the aplomb of a delicious Deuxieme Empire farce, Young Marx is a racy, gallivanting romp, making the earnest lead a figure of fun.
Hare’s adaptation, the best of the three in the Season, is crisp, charming and comical, thereby magnifying the effect of the more tragic aspects. It’s a markedly short version of the play, and Kent assists the understanding of its contours and colours by interposing interval between Acts 3 and 4. This allows the four central characters of the play to stake out their positions, develop their tensions and alliances, their hopes, fears and dreams; by the time the third Act is over, the various dice have been rolled and Act Four, set two years on, is about consequences; chickens – or seagulls – coming home to roost.
Honesty, as David Hare points out, is the dominating theme of Ivanov. It is also the dominating principle adopted by Jonathan Kent as the guiding light for his revival of Ivanov, now playing at the Chichester Festival Theatre as part of their Young Chekhov season. The performances he elicits from the specially formed repertory company are intensely honest, truly felt, and they create a theatrical tapestry which is rich in detail and unsparing in terms of vitality and verity.