The Argentinians have arrived in town. The Sala Muniz is sold out. The whole of my cast has come to see the show, and it seems as though collectively they know every single person in the audience.
Whilst the theatre seems to be bursting at the seams, a party due to break out at any moment, the stage itself, awaiting its actors, is a restricted, slightly ugly space, made out of plywood, a cheap set nestled within the theatre’s generous proportions. It’s diamond shaped, with a few old chairs and a table, on which sits an old revolver, with doors to either side and a small hatch in the back wall. An old man and a younger girl amble on. They start to talk, quietly, as though they weren’t in a theatre. Two faces spy on them through the hatch. The girl makes as if to threaten the old man with the gun, but he quietens her and takes it away, telling her they need to save it for the final scene.
Other characters appear. They are all drinking. One is called Vanya. I know this is an adaptation of Chekhov, but I can’t remember Uncle Vanya and anyway it doesn’t matter as the actors are talking about Ostrovsky and Genet and theatre, and there’s a hint of Pirandello, and the actors keep on drinking and all of a sudden they’re all roaring drunk, incapacitated, falling over each other, all of this taking place on their tiny handkerchief of a stage. And Sonya’s in love with the doctor who fancies Elena, who Vanya’s in love with only she’s not in love with either of them and she’s not even in love with her husband, Sonya’s father, Alexander, who was the old man at the start of the scene, but gradually all the connections start to make sense, like a whisky, natch, vodka dream, a night swimming, the characters gravitating round the space like fish in a bowl, a ceaseless fluid movement which seems more real than reality.
An Argentinian Chekhov, with all the unfulfilled dreams of the ever dreaming characters played out in some backwater where people speak as though they’re singing. The play reminded me a little of La Cienega, Lucretia Martel’s film, an old family holed up in its old house lost somewhere in the middle of a vast country. The Argentine dolefulness acting as a perfect foil to the Russian melancholy. A company so in tune with itself that it almost seems to deny the need for space, as though it could indeed perform the play in a nutshell, if the need arose.