"Flack has set a high bar for himself here. It's going to be a lot of fun seeing how he carries on."
If this production of Chekhov's Ivanov is how new artistic director Eamon Flack intends to continue his reign, then Belvoir patrons are in for a fantastic couple of years.
Directed and adapted by Flack, this Ivanov has been brought forward to a modern Russian setting with a picture of Vladimir Putin hanging on the wall. But the dissatisfaction Nikolai Ivanov, an increasingly desperate Ewen Leslie, feels in his life can be easily borrowed from Chekhov's original setting. With no money to pay his estate workers, loans piling up and a dying wife, Ivanov's the melancholic centre of an otherwise farcical comedy. Around him, a host of supporting characters provide the contrast to Ivanov's dark mood from the garish Marfa Babakina and Misha Borkin (Blazey Best and Fayssal Bazzi having the time of their lives) to the idealistic young Sasha (Arlie Dodds) and Ivanov's quietly dignified wife, Anna (Zahra Newman). Though there are moments of deep resonance here for theatre-goers looking for it, this production works just as well as for its outlandish comedy values; the way Leslie rolls his eyes when cousin Borkin annoys him or droll housemaid, Gabriella openly filming an argument between characters on her iPhone. Flack has set a high bar for himself here. It's going to be a lot of fun seeing how he carries on.