Review: Vassa, at Almeida Theatre

Uncomfortable mix of farce, satire and tragedy as family members air their dirty laundry

Friday, 25th October 2019 — By Sipora Levy

Siobhán Redmond in Vassa Photo credit Marc Brenner

Siobhan Redmond in Vassa. Photos: Marc Brenner

MIKE Bartlett is a hugely prolific and successful playwright.

Not yet 40, he has already written 18 plays/adaptations as well as other work for radio and TV. His last play at the Almeida was the sublime Albion in 2017.

Probably best known for King Charles III and Doctor Foster, he has now adapted this little known play by Gorky. Unfortunately, it makes for an awkward evening.

Vassa is a mother who has been running the family business on her own as her husband is terminally ill.

Her sons Semyon (Danny Kirrane) and Pavel (Arthur Hughes) are sad wastrels, impatient for their inheritance, while her more independent daughter Anna (Amber James) returns from Moscow at her mother’s request.

Sophie Wu (Lyudmila), Siobhán Redmond (Vassa) and Amber James (Anna)

Together with brother-in-law Prokhar (Michael Gould), a horrible sexual predator, they are fighting over what happens to the money when the father dies, but Vassa wants full control.

She is played by the superb Siobhan Redmond, who stepped into the role at short notice when Samantha Bond had to withdraw due to a back injury.

Although the performances are all excellent, the production is quite patchy and perhaps the cast change needs more time to settle down.

Sophie Wu (Lyudmila) and Michael Gould (Prokhor)

What ensues is an uncomfortable mix of farce, satire and tragedy, where family members air their dirty laundry and tear each other apart.

There is a lot of shouting and people being nasty and ruthless, in order to get rich.

But quite frankly we have quite enough of that in the world already.

Running at two hours including an interval, it also felt too long.

Until November 23
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