With a beautiful set by Oscar Selfridge, wonderfully enhanced by Michele Cadel‘s lighting design, and a slick directing style by Mark Geisser, this adaptation of one of Anton Chekov‘s The Lady With A Dog will leave you with a positive theatrical experience. However, the necessity of such a work to a modern audience begs questioning.

Dancing their way across Selfridge’s set, reminiscent of a veranda on the French (or Scottish) riviera, is a very capable cast. What you want from good acting is a certain level of complexity in character, believability, and an aliveness – on these fronts, they all deliver. There isn’t much more to say, however, as their character’s don’t require any huge stretches from them. And this is The Lady with a Dog‘s most pressing issue.

The Lady With A Dog White Bear Theatre

Beth Burrows & Alan Turkington (image courtesy of Andreas Lambis)

It is incredibly generic. Anne Dennis’ (Beth Burrows) love for the predatory Damien Granville (Alan Turkington) eventually thaws his hardened heart but does not provide any nuance. In a show about escapism through sexual and personal liberation, these characters are still confined entirely by social class, an element that entirely defines the play’s plot. It is inescapably outdated and this makes the play feel unrelatable. There is a solid drive to encourage the audience to care for these star-crossed lovers – it’s a shame that this seems unachievable.

The Lady With A Dog White Bear Theatre

Beth Burrows & Duncan MacInnes (image courtesy of Andreas Lambis)

That isn’t to say that theatre should be valued by how much of a political or social statement it makes. Actually, by adapting the short story from late 18th Century Russia to 1920’s Britain, we are able to reminisce about a very important time in history. This dramaturgical work is played out alongside Geissor’s skilful directing and the play’s form is playful enough to keep your attention. Anne and Damien’s partners act to ignite inner dialogue and to keep the main casts’ morality in check. Visualised rippling memories waft gently across the stage during these points of the production – a brush of a hand, the placement of a pillow behind a head.  It’s a nice touch, simple and effective.

If you are looking for a great retrospective that opens questions about our society, then The Lady With A Dog won’t be for you. But where this may be lacking, what you will find is a strong piece of realism, where specific attention to the details of the time (special mention to costume designer Giulia Scrimieri) and a strong cast & creative concept provide a good payoff.

 

 

★★★☆☆

The Lady With A Dog runs at White Bear Theatre until 10 March 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.