Simon Stokes came back to see Chekhov in Hell
last night, after a few days away from it. His view is that the
performances have softened slightly. One of the hazards that actors have
to navigate round is wanting to be loved by the audience. There is a
complex negotiation at work because you have to communicate with them
and there are many skills that we all have to ensure the quality of that
communication; some of these skills are ‘charm’ and ‘likeability’ and
various personal qualities that make sure the channel of communication
is open. In this play, only Chekhov can really be liked by the audience;
if we bond ourselves to him then we see the play through his eyes and
we experience his dislocating horror at the quality of the contemporary
world. All of the characters have their clear good intentions but they
have become twisted out of shape in their actions. And if the actors
start trying to persuade the audience of their characters’ essential
sweetness, the play becomes noisy and confused.
Simon’s talk was uncompromising. ‘We
don’t need to re-rehearse unless you really want to. It’s basically all
working but it’s got soft. What you have to remember is that these
characters are cunts. You. You’re a cunt. You? You’re a cunt too. You
two, you’re both cunts. That Alan Sugar? He’s a complete cunt.
Everyone’s a cunt. And you have to remember that; don’t make them like
you because you’re all cunts.’
It seems to have done the trick.