Betts’ adaptation (re-imagining is perhaps more accurate) certainly tries to evoke the same effect Chekhov must have had on his original audiences. There is a robust modernity about the language which makes the situations and characters instantly understandable, relatable and recognisable. This comes at a real cost to the lyricism that Chekhov penned, but, in the end, the clarity of the understanding is worth it. For some, no doubt, the text will be too coarse, too vulgar – but it distils the essence of Chekhov’s intent in a coherent and tangible way.
The text is like a huge tapestry – there are many elements sewn into it: moments of silence, of banality, of revelation, of humour, of intense longing, of possibility, of heartbreak, of examination, of acceptance, of desolation. Quite a lot of the dialogue is lyrical, evocative. But there is a shimmering through-line of unspoken hurt and non-alignment which positively aches. Andrew Sheridan and Matthew Tennyson complement each other perfectly and the gradual changes in each over the course of the play are finely judged. Complex and absorbing.