Chekhov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard’ at the National Theatre — broadcast live from the Olivier Theatre


London

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Thanks to my in-laws, who are working in London, tonight I had the great privilege of seeing Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard performed at the Olivier Theatre inside the National Theatre.

This particular show was broadcast live to five continents.

Five camera guys, two with assistants, were stationed roughly in a crescent around the stage (at one point, immediately following the intermission, a cameraman got on stage with a camera on his shoulder to get closer to the action for a few minutes).

My wife Kristi, my father-in-law Tom, and I sat five rows back from the stage, on the far right of the center section (the stalls in the Olivier Theater). On our end, and on the far left, the cameras were on tracks level to the stage. Those were the cameras with assistants.

The first row was unoccupied, except for a crew member.  About a 15-foot section of track allowed the camera in front of us to move back and forth during the play. The crew member seated on the front row helped guide the chord to the camera as it moved back on forth along the tracks. At one point, the chord briefly caught on something as the camera quietly rolled right.

Throughout the play, we could tell when the camera in front of us was the one broadcasting live. Red lights around the camera’s viewing screen would light up.

This was the only downside: Sometimes the camera, camera guy, and his assistant were directly between us and the action on stage.

I had never seen The Cherry Orchard. By most accounts — Sunday Telegraph, Daily Express, Daily Mail, Evening Standard, Financial Times, The Independent, The Times, The Stage, Mail on Sunday — this was a four-star or five-star way to see it.

Each actor gave a strong, consistent, thorough performance. Andrew Upton’s version of Chekhov’s play, as directed by Howard Davies, told a story of change and class differences, with a balance of humor and bitter loss.

I hope I’m not too far off base to say the “old money” characters lost out in the story, while the middle-class, hard-working entrepreneur and the young idealistic student seemed — equally — to hold the promise of the future.

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