The Cherry Orchard

Written by Anton Chekhov (translated by Ronald Hingley)

Thurs 19th - Sat 21st September & Tues 24th - Sat 28th September 1996

Directed by John Scadding

It is 1904. The Ravenskys and their friends are back on the estate for a summertime of picnics and romantic liaisons - all typically Russian. Only this time, Chekhov is going to tell it as comedy and farce. This is Chekhov's last play and rather different.

AuthorAnton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov (1860 - 1904)

Born in Southern Russia of humble origin, Chekhov studied Medicine at Moscow University, and while there, in order to support his family, he turned to writing. He graduated in 1884 and shortly after leaving turned to drama, although he was to continue to practise medicine for the rest of his life. The production of the Moscow Arts Theatre of his play 'The Seagull' in 1898 was the first to achieve the delicate balance of tragedy and comedy which is Chekhov's most individual contribution to drama. However, his originality also consists in an early use of the stream-of-consciousness technique, combined with a disavowal of the moral finality of traditional story structure. Another revolutionary quality in Chekhov's work was that his plays were written for a team of actors rather than for one or two star principals and supporting cast.

TranslatorRonald Hingley

Ronald Hingley (1920 - 2010)

Ronald Hingley produced his acclaimed translation of Chekhov's stories in the 1960s and rose to become Emeritus Professor at St Antony's College, Oxford. He was praised, in particular, for the attention he paid to colloquial speech, reflecting Chekhov's ability to capture all facets of Russian society. Inspired in his boyhood to learn Russian after reading the Catherine Garnett translation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's 'The Brothers Karamazov', Ronald Hingley later devoted his life to the study of Russian literature and political history. Hingley described himself as "a teacher by trade and an academic not a professional author." Although his scholarly activity has embraced literary criticism, translation, political analysis, and the examination of broad literary trends, Hingley's biographical work is perhaps most worthy of note. His major effort in biography, and certainly his best-known work, is 'A New Life of Anton Chekhov' (1976) and he was the foremost translator of Chekhov's plays.

PlayThe Cherry Orchard

The Cherry Orchard is Russian playwright Anton Chekhov's last play which premiered in 1904 and is one his masterpieces. The plot concerns an aristocratic Russian woman and her family as they return to the family's estate (which includes a large and well-known cherry orchard) just before it is auctioned to pay the mortgage. While presented with options to save the estate, the family essentially does nothing and the play ends with the estate being sold to the son of a former serf, and the family leaving to the sound of the cherry orchard being cut down.

An atmospheric study of a group of characters in the Russian provinces, the plot is simply the interaction of the characters caught in the slack water between a hazy, nostalgically remembered past and an equally hazy but possibly heroic future; waiting with greater or lesser apprehension for the world they have known to be swept away and replaced by a new one. Since the first production this play has been translated into many languages and produced around the world, becoming a classic work of dramatic literature.

The Bench Production

The Cherry Orchard poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. It was the second time Bench Theatre had staged this particular play, the first time being in 1975 at the old Bench Theatre in West Street also under the direction of John Scadding.


Dunyasha, the chambermaidKaty Smith
Lophakin (Yermolai), a businessmanDavid Penrose
Yepikhodov, the estate clerkJohn Blackmore
Firs, the old footmanDerk Cusdin
Anya, Liuba's daughterIsabella Favarin
Liuba Ranyevskaya, a landownerNicola Scadding
Charlotta Ivanovna, the governessHelena Whalley
Varya, Liuba's adopted wardIngrid Corrigan
Gaev (Lenya), Liuba's brotherJohn O'Hanlon
Simeon-Pischick, a landownerStuart Hartley
Yasha, the young footmanSimon Walton
Trofimov (Petya), a studentNeil Pugmire
A Passer-byBarry Brennan


Director John Scadding
Stage Managers Gabrielle Penfold, Stuart Monk
Lighting Design John Scadding
Lighting and Sound Operators Andrew Caple, Tim Taylor
Wardrobe Gemma Boyd, Helena Whalley
Additional Costumes Sheila Spackman
Music and sound effects John O'Hanlon
Leaflet Design Pete Woodward
Designer and Decorator John Scadding
Publicity Kathy O'Hanlon and John O'Hanlon
Front of House Kathy O'Hanlon

Director's Notes

Chekhov started his writing career with comic pieces and he ended his career writing comedy again. In between, he wrote some of the most heart-breaking stories and plays ever written: read three in a row and prepare to kill yourself.

Now at the end of his career he was determined to go out on a laugh. So he took the corniest story-line available to a Ruskie at the time - the selling of the old estate (yawn, yawn). He amassed a dozen reach-me-down characters like the deaf old butler, the noisy new capitalist, the amorous servants, etc, etc, shook them all together like a fizzy mixture and called it 'The Cherry Orchard'. Nothing at all was new in the play - except the way he told it.

And there lies the problem.

Right from the start the play was misunderstood. Chekhov was furious with the first production. "Why have they turned all my characters into cry-babies?" he asked. It helped to kill him. Stanislavski, the greatest Russian director finally accepted that the play was a comedy and found out how to do it. It took him four years.

On the edge of existence, Chekhov capers and dances. Before the light goes out, he forgives and sings. He smiles, he rejoices, he goes out giggling. Alright, there is sadness, but they're such a daft lot and we're such a daft lot all we human beings ("nincompoops", "job-lots" and "silly-billies") that the best thing to do it to laugh at all of it.

But he laughs lovingly, he laughs without bitterness, he laughs too at himself - and in a strange prosey poetry.

Highfalutin? Not at all. Did you see the last episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, when they go over the top? Well that's what I'm talking about.

I hope you enjoy it.

John Scadding


The NewsMike Allen

Playing it for laughs

Director John Scadding declared his intention of playing Chekhov for laughs and at breakneck speed in his Bench Theatre production. In fact neither necks nor hearts are broken. The pace is good but the balance has been shifted too far towards the comedy, which is mostly on the fringe of the central conflict.

This is between the old gentry, embodied by Ranyevskaya, refusing to face the facts of a changing world, and the new generation represented by Lophakin, the former serf who buys and fells her beloved cherry orchard.

Nicola Scadding is a solid Ranyevskaya, perhaps too solid to convey her full weakness. David Penrose brings more light and shade to Lophakin, moving between respect and frustration, good humour and triumphalism. High entertainment comes from Helena Whalley as a batty governess, and from Neil Pugmire, a jumble of certainties and uncertainties as eternal student Trofimov. Nor are they alone in making expressive use of the eyes - giving even a throwaway glance a world of meaning.

The News, 20th September 1996

Production Photographs