Wild Honey 

Hampstead Theatre 

Tuesday 10/01/17 

Cast Includes Geoffrey Streatfeild, Bruce Alexander and Justine Mitchell

Running Time: 2 hours 20 mins inc. Interval 

 

One of Chekhov’s earliest plays seems to be one of the most popular at the moment, and one of the most regularly revived in the past year. Firstly, it was in the form of Platonov, part of David Hare’s Young Chekhov series at Chichester and the National, and also is currently on Broadway as The Present with Cate Blanchett as Anna Petrovna. However, one of the most famous versions, Michael Frayn’s 1984 translation Wild Honey, is currently showing at Hampstead Theatre – what is the fascination with this play that writer return to it so frequently? 

This production is in the style of a very traditional Chekhovian production – there has been no alteration of character names, setting or time period, an this extends very much to the casting. The production feels very ‘white’ with a very non-diverse cast, which is something that made it feel slightly dated, especially as the 2 BAME roles are servants or lower class characters . 

It is, however, a uniformly good cast, especially Geoffrey Streatfeild as Platonov – especially throughout the second act he has a lot to do and he manages to balance the despair and humour in the part in equal measure. He manages to capture the anguish of a man torn between two lovers (and also his wife) and the emotional anguish that he causes. 

There also other standout performances throughout the piece. Justine Mitchell playing Anna Petrovna gives the character a light, flirtatious air with Streatfeild’s Platonov, but the piece plays down the character’s money worries in source text – when these arise in the second act there feels little time to resolve them, and there feels little. 

Also, the production is definitely that of two halves – the first is much more straight, and the second seems much more knowing, larger and to the audience. Platonov has many more asides to the audience in the second half, and it feels much more farcical compared to the first – as such this lends the piece a slightly uneven tone. 

The set is beautiful – Rob Howell’s stark and simple set is quite skeletal and feels like stripped and barren trees – we as the audience do feel like we have been through a cold, Russian winter and are waking for summer, much as the characters are. 

 

Summary: A solid production of Michael Frayn’s view of Chekhov, which, whilst having some slightly uneven moments in tone, is ultimately pleasurable ****

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