Review: Vanya


by Mike Matthaiakis

“Vanya” presents a daring and profoundly moving one-man reworking of Chekhov’s classic “Uncle Vanya,” featuring a tour de force performance by Andrew Scott. While the idea of a solo rendition of such a well-known play may seem daunting, Scott’s portrayal transcends expectations, delivering a deeply immersive and emotionally resonant experience.

From the moment Scott steps onto the stage, clad in a partially unbuttoned shirt and engaging with the audience through mirrors, it’s evident that this production will be something special. With humor and intimacy, Scott seamlessly transitions between characters, effortlessly embodying their distinct personalities and mannerisms. Yet, there’s more to his performance than mere mimicry – Scott delves into the core of each character, laying bare their vulnerabilities and inner turmoil.

Director Sam Yates orchestrates a production that is both intimate and intense, allowing Scott’s performance to shine without overshadowing the emotional depth of Chekhov’s text. The adaptation by Simon Stephens infuses the play with a contemporary edge, eschewing traditional conventions for a more modern sensibility.

Rosanna Vize’s set design, featuring cluttered modern junk and subtle nods to Chekhovian aesthetics, creates a visually engaging backdrop for Scott’s tour de force. James Farncombe’s lighting design enhances the mood, from the whimsical opening with flickering light switches to the poignant moments of stillness and introspection.

What sets “Vanya” apart is its ability to distill complex human emotions into their purest form. As Scott navigates the characters’ yearning, loneliness, and regret, the audience is drawn into a world of profound empathy and understanding. While familiarity with the plot of “Uncle Vanya” may enhance appreciation, the power of Scott’s performance transcends narrative clarity, speaking directly to the universal experience of human emotion.

In the end, “Vanya” is a testament to the transformative power of theater and the remarkable talent of Andrew Scott. It’s a performance that lingers long after the curtain falls, leaving audiences in awe of its depth and resonance.

Vanya is running until 21 October at the Duke of York’s Theatre.