Arriving safely at our destination at 6.15, however, we got out picnic and chairs as advised (although most people were on rugs on the ground ) and watched a man reading aloud from a book while a woman paced around him. Further along the lawn, other costumed people played violins, had mock sword fights and talked, their noise (and ours) drowning the voice of the reader.
At 6.30, however, a conversation started between man and woman and we were off. What followed was Turgenev’s so-called ‘comedy’ A Month In The Country, which tells the story of the bored wife of a Russian landowner, Natalya, who falls in love with the student tutor hired to teach her son and disrupts the lives of all around her. Comedy? Both men who love Natalya have to leave and Natalya’s young ward, Vera, agrees to marry a much older man to get away from Natalya’s machinations. Not a laugh a minute this; it feels much more like Chekhov, although it was written long before Chekhov’s plays appeared.
I cannot give you names as there was no programme, but I can tell you that the play is carried by the powerful performance of Natalya, whose brooding presence dominates all around her. She was utterly convincing - as she needs to be, for it is the pivotal role in the play. Fair or not, the other players felt like supporting actors: I rather took to the pert maid, Katya. There is no set, just a bench to one side of a lawn and I liked the way the far side of the lawn was used to show what was going on off stage – the tutor showing the son how to fly a kite, people walking and talking, servants flirting. I was worried that I would not be able to hear as I could not hear the reading at the beginning but, once the play had started, the words were quite clear.
Go warmly dressed and don’t get there too late and I think you will enjoy this performance. I just hope they have somewhere dry to perform when the predicted rain comes.