Three Days in the Country at the National Theatre in London.
Patrick Marber distilled Three Days in the Country from A Month in the Country written by Ivan Turgenev who also wrote Fortune’s Fool, which I had the pleasure of seeing at the Old Vic last year.
Accompanied by my fellow writer, Merlin fan, and theatre goer friend, Julie, our seats were in the Gods but afforded a really decent view. The set was minimalistic so no real distraction (see Hamlet). However, an annoying red door hung at eye level through the first half and then during the second half, sat on the floor serving no purpose. People just walked around it as if it were the remaining door in a game of Musical Doors. Where were the imaginary walls? At this point, I blame Adel Players for my obsessive examination of sets.
The story, set over three days in the Russian countryside, is of love and misunderstanding. The object of everybody’s affections is a young man, Belyaev, played by Royce Pierreson, who is the tutor to the son of Natalya, the lady of the house played by Amanda Drew. It seems everyone fancies him—the wife, the daughter, the maid, and he fancies them in return! Except the doctor, Shpigelsky, played by Mark Gatiss, who produced a wonderfully crafted character who in reality wasn’t a very good doctor and would prefer to send his friends elsewhere for medical assistance. My favourite scene is when Shpigelsky drops on one knee to propose and puts his back out. The comic fallout of a man in pain stuck on all fours is priceless. His crab impression skittering across the stage was worth the ticket price in itself.
John Simm played Rakitin, best friends with the man of the house and a person who has loved and lost but is still in love. It took a while to recognise him, as his hair and beard were as grey as sooty chimney. He was magnetic to watch and even though he was grey-haired and dressed in country house attire I still saw Sam from Life on Mars with echoes of the Master from Doctor Who.
I felt the running time of two hours fifteen minutes was just right, any longer and I would have drifted off as the story wasn’t strong enough to keep my attention. A few times I had to refocus and it didn’t help that seated across the back of the set were actors in waiting, literally, actors waiting their turn to perform. I found myself studying them instead of watching the… I was going to say action but it wasn’t really action just gentle goings-on.
Apart from the snotty woman to my right, it was an enjoyable way to spend a Tuesday afternoon and a real pleasure to witness the acting capabilities of Messer’s Simm and Gatiss.
Today, I have mostly been catching three trains and four tube trains, walking over two bridges, eating in two restaurants, and sitting in one theatre.