Chekhov, African Americans on London stage

This video is called Nicholas Beveney in The Hotel Cerise.

By Katherine M Graham in England:

Acute take on black family life matters

Wednesday 2nd November 2016

KATHERINE M GRAHAM recommends a drama on Afro-American realities

Hotel Cerise
Theatre Royal Stratford East, London E15

FIRMLY anchored in a traditional yet nuanced understanding of the family, Hotel Cerise is a moving engagement with the tension around and between black heritage and US politics today.

Bonnie Greer’s new work takes Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and sets it in the middle of contemporary politics, with the play’s action concluding the day before the imminent presidential election.

The focus is on the Mountjoys, owners of the Hotel Cerise, who are struggling with financial pressures and trying to save the property and the land that’s been in their family for years.

Saving the hotel is a personal quest intimately connected to black history, as it had been a gathering place for stars like Ella Fitzgerald and Bessie Smith from the early 1900s on.

The narrative is driven by a strong central performance from the charismatic Ellen Thomas as Anita, whose elegiac imagination literally sees the tensions between past and present. She’s ably supported by Madeline Appiah and Claire Prempe as her daughters Chirlane and Lorraine, Nicholas Beveney as the swaggering brother AL and Abhin Galey as Karim Hassan, who both is and isn’t family.

At times the play feels like it’s possibly doing too much, juggling many characters and issues in a way which sometimes means threads are dropped or fail to connect. But this is a minor cavil when set against the vibrancy of the characters and the complexity of the sociopolitical world they inhabit.

The Chekhovian template Greer adopts serves well in politically interrogating the current black experience and where it’s perhaps most successful is in charting what this family has lost, the lives that black Americans are losing and, vitally, suggesting what might be lost if Trump wins the presidency. A poignant, challenging and vitally important play.

Runs until November 12, box office:

2 thoughts on “Chekhov, African Americans on London stage

  1. Saturday 18th November 2017

    PAUL FOLEY sees an excellent production of Chekhov’s leisurely chronicle of domestic disintegration

    Uncle Vanya

    HOME, Manchester

    NO-ONE quite does boredom like Anton Chekhov.

    Over the course of a couple of hours in Uncle Vanya, nothing very significant appears to happen yet, by its end, each character has undergone a complete metamorphosis. A master of the tragi-comic spirit, the Russian playwright subtly depicts the ease with which a seemingly stable household can fall apart from inconsequential events.

    Director Walter Meierjohann understands his Chekhov and skilfully steers the characters through the paralysing morass of rural Russia on the cusp of change at the turn of the last century and his clear vision, coupled with a wonderful ensemble cast, results in an excellent production.

    Jason Merrells perfectly captures the frustrations of country doctor Astrov, who controls his tedious life from the bottom of a vodka glass, while David Fleeshman is a wonderfully crabby Professor Serebrayakov, whose month-long sojourn at the old house is the catalyst for the disaster which unfolds. And his trophy wife Yelena, played with great panache by Hara Yannas, is transformed from bored disinterest to the sickening realisation that she is trapped in a loveless marriage.

    But it is the performances of Vanya and Sonya that make this a truly remarkable production. Nick Holder practically falls apart before our eyes as the gnawing passion for Yelena eats away at his confidence and self-esteem and, by the end, he is truly a broken man.

    Katie West steals the show with an outstanding performance as the vulnerable Sonya, capturing the very essence of a young girl in turmoil as she moves from annoying child to a young woman discovering the stomach-churning emotion of a first love.

    Finally, she settles for the sensible, stoical maturity needed to hold the collapsing household together and there’s a heartbreaking moment where she speaks directly to the audience, as if to a close friend, confessing her love for Astrov. When she asks if she is being “silly,” the temptation is to scream out: “Forget that drunken bastard, you’re too good for him!”

    Chekov may not be your thing but this beautiful production could change your mind.

    Runs Until November 25, box office:,-gradually#.WhBeqLCDMdU


  2. Pingback: Chekhov’s Seagull, new film | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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