Philobiblon: A feminist Chekhov?

Friday, February 24, 2006

A feminist Chekhov?

Olga Ivanovna is animated, clever, pretty, passionate and trapped in a small town, in a country that views another state, and another language, as holding the key to all elements of high culture. What is she to do? She twirls, she glows, she leaps around, collecting every visiting "star", every scrap of local talent, shining desperately as the life of every party.

You might remember the actress Amy Stratton from Brookside and Coronation Street (as Jenny Gibson and Davina Dawes respectively, so I'm told), but at the Union Theatre in Southwark now she is Olga, a spectacular, sparkling, but oh-so-fragile Olga.

And she's the undoubted shining light of an ambitious production, The Little Dressmaker, which Linnie Redman has adapted from Chekhov's short story "The Grasshopper". This is commonly presented as a morality tale about the dangers of thoughtless following of emotion, but, taking a feminist slant on the story, my sympathies are with Olga.

Perhaps the men in the town have few opportunities, certainly there are few for her friend "the Musician", played here in a technically virtuoso performance by David Laughton (on piano, violin, squeeze-box and balalaika). Despite his skills, he is reduced to camp posturing and disappointed flouncing, but how much fewer are the chances for women?READ MORE


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