50 Friends set off to Salford Quays on a sunny March day to see this final play put on by Manchester’s renowned Library Theatre Company under the helm of their long-serving artistic director Chris Honer. Anton Chekhov used his 1896 tragi-comedy to consider the future of theatre itself, so there was something particularly poignant about this being their very last production before relocating in 2015 to an impressive purpose-built venue under the new banner of ‘Home’ (a future trip perhaps?). As Chris Honer is stepping down after 25 years, we were privileged to hear his farewell pre-show talk before he hands over to his successor. As ever it was filled with insightful commentary on the playwright and this new version of his play, which enhanced our understanding and enjoyment of the performance that followed.
It proved to be a fresh re-imagining of a Russian classic by the award-winning young playwright Anya Reiss, in which the setting was relocated to the world of contemporary middle-class Britain. The drama therefore unfolded against a backdrop of I-pods, laptops and mobile phones. However it all worked well to give the action immediacy and relevance, and the talented cast did an excellent job of drawing us into their circle of angst-ridden relationships. Did we like any of the characters? Probably not that much, but we certainly felt their pain as the tragedy unfolded towards its inevitable conclusion.
While perhaps that all sounds a bit on the heavy side, the fact is that we had a great time watching it and a lovely day out. So bring on the next theatre trip in October! Elizabeth Lambrakis