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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wild Honey

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
©Mark Fisher
Imagine a cross between Uncle Vanya, Noises Off and Don Juan with a touch of Hamlet's indecision thrown in for good measure. This is the mongrel territory of Michael Frayn's mid-80s reworking of Anton Chekhov's novice play, usually known as Platonov, which comes across as a midsummer night's sex comedy tempered by moments of existentialist despair, not all of it serious.

Launching the six-play summer repertoire season at Pitlochry, John Durnin's production boasts a number of spirited performances, but it falls in the middle ground between pathos and farce. It is neither serious enough to explain the characters' frustrated desires nor funny enough to show the ridiculous tragedy of their empty lives.

As in later Chekhov, things have grown so desperately dull in well-to-do provincial Russia that the slightest deviation from the norm causes untold excitement. Thus when Mikhail Vasilyevich Platonov, a school teacher with a vaguely unconventional streak, returns to his in-laws' country house for the summer, he becomes the subject of irrepressible sexual yearning. A man primarily in love with himself, he is forced to juggle the advances of three women while his misunderstood wife is indoors with their baby.

Part of the joke is that Platonov is unworthy of such attention; he's just a big-headed dreamer with thwarted ambitions. Even so, it doesn't make sense for actor Greg Powrie to project so weak an impression of the charismatic student Platonov once was or of the "spirit" that is ascribed to him. He is genial and self-absorbed rather than a maverick, which makes it hard to see why the women are attracted to him, especially in the absence of any sexual chemistry on stage. As a result, the comedy of a man besieged by women never sparks into life and the play seems long winded where it should be fleet of foot.
Mark Fisher
Until October 18. Box office: 01796 484 626.

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