Pub ballrooms were once the beating heart of theatre and performance in Adelaide. This playful, intimate performance of Anton Chekhov’s works brings drama back to the boozer.
Chekhov is not a writer usually associated with vaudevilles. Better known for melancholy and nostalgia than farcical comedy, Chekhov has been referred to as “the poet of hopelessness.” Yet in his lifetime, Chekhov’s vaudevilles were widely popular— “I’ve managed to write a stupid vaudeville which, owing to the fact that it is stupid, is enjoying surprising success,” Chekhov said of his one-act play The Bear. This was a modest remark – his vaudevilles, though light-hearted, manage to create witty characters that touch upon interesting aspects of human psychology.
Black Cat Theatre, with a cast of 5 talented actors, performed The Bear and 3 other one-act vaudevilles, as well as short excerpts from 3 more plays, in the ballroom at the Kings Head last night. The setting was casual, with the noise of patrons outside occasionally flowing in. This only added to the authenticity of their endeavour: the humour was natural, and the scenes invoked seemed instinctive and unpretentious.
All 5 actors were convincing in their multiple roles, but the stand-out performance was Caroline Birkett as Elena Ivanovna Popova in The Bear—her dialogue with her nemesis Grigory Smirnov (“A coarse bear!”—played by Isaac Gates) was delivered with brilliant pace, inflection, and sass. Their interaction was the most comical of the night, and the humour was owed as much to Chekhov’s words as it was to the body language, the tension, and the physical interplay between the two actors
After a glass of wine and many laughs, Chekhov at the Pub left one question unanswered: when and where is the next performance? Theatre in the back rooms of pubs should be a more regular occurrence.
Chekhov at the Pub was performed at the King’s Head Hotel on Tuesday, March 5
Chekhov at the Pub
March 5-7, 12-14
King’s Head Hotel, Ballroom