Meet Masha, the smasher from a Russian dacha in adaptation of Chekhov"s Three Sisters at the Young Vic

Meet Masha, the smasher from a Russian dacha in adaptation of Chekhov's Three Sisters at the Young Vic

Baz Bamigboye


21:19 GMT, 28 June 2012



23:59 GMT, 28 June 2012

Vanessa Kirby: Joining Chekhov's sisterhood as Masha in a new production at the Young Vic

Vanessa Kirby: Joining Chekhov's sisterhood as Masha in a new production at the Young Vic

Fast-rising actress Vanessa Kirby, so good in BBC Television’s recent Great Expectations, has been imagining what it’s like to have a hot and heavy affair. Not in real life — but as Masha, the middle of Chekhov’s famous Three Sisters.

Masha’s married to dull Latin teacher Kulygin and trapped with her sisters at an isolated military garrison. But when Lieutenant-Colonel Vershinin comes to town things, for a moment at least, start to brighten up.

‘She’s suffocating in this marriage,’ Vanessa explained. ‘Masha sees Vershinin and feels she just has to experience something different.’

Vanessa, who played Estella opposite Douglas Booth in Great Expectations, will play Masha (a role she didn’t think she’d get ‘in a trillion years’) for dynamic Australian director Benedict Andrews at the Young Vic from September 8 through October 13. The acclaimed actress Mariah Gale will play eldest sibling Olga and Gala Gordon, who’s about to graduate from Guildhall School of Music and Drama, will portray Irina.

Director Andrews likes to shake up the classics. He once staged a production of The Seagull in his native Australia, relocating Chekhov’s tale from a lakeside dacha to a Bondi beach house where the folk called each other mate. His version of The Return Of Ulysses, also at the Young Vic, was much talked about, as was his Gross Und Klein, with Cate Blanchett, at the Barbican in April.

Andrews has directed Three Sisters before — for the Sydney Theatre Company, with Bridesmaids star Rose Byrne as Irina. However, the forthcoming show will be a completely new version, using a literal trans- lation by Helen Rappaport and designs by Johannes Schutz.

Vanessa, who has seen the sets and costumes, said it will be a contemporary Chekhov, based in a ‘metaphorical’ Russia.

I should reveal now that a segment of our phone conversation took place in the ladies’ loo — or rather Vanessa’s side of it did. She was on location at an art gallery filming scenes for Richard Curtis’s new film About Time, and the loo was the quietest spot she could find.

About Time stars Rachel McAdams (one of my big favourites) and Domhnall Gleeson (he plays Levin in Joe Wright’s much-anticipated Anna Karenina) as lovers. Vanessa plays Rachel’s ‘quite brash’ best friend.

She also appears in the American film The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman with Mads Mikkelsen, this year’s Cannes Film Festival best actor laureate.

Three days after finishing on the Curtis film she’ll start rehearsing Three Sisters, and exploring why Masha would risk everything for a fling with Vershinin.

At last, some classic drama from the BBC with no holds Bard

It's rare that Shakespeare has been so gripping on the screen.

Watching the Hollow Crown — Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, and Henry V — was like being caught up in some exciting thriller.

Even though we know the answers, I wanted to see how Ben Whishaw’s Richard coped with Rory Kinnear’s Bolingbroke.

After he has disposed of Richard, Bolingbroke realises how heavy that crown is, once he puts it on to become Henry IV.

In Richard Eyre’s two-part Henry IV, the title character morphs into Jeremy Irons — but one’s eye is caught by Tom Hiddleston’s Harry, and how he carouses with Simon Russell Beale’s Falstaff.

Ben Whishaw

The Hollow Crown

The Hollow Crown: Ben Whishaw as Richard II, left, and Tom Hiddleston as Henry V, right

Irons’s Henry has to give his heir a good tongue lashing, and you hope the lad will forget his rebellious ways and grow up to be a man.

The battle scenes in Henry IV are excellent and we begin to get a sense of how Harry will become the courageous king in Henry V: the man who forgets his greener days and leads his band of brothers in battle against the French.

Hiddleston captures the humanity of a monarch who understands what he’s asking his men to give their lives for.

Thea Sharrock’s Henry V is a compelling piece of film- making, with some superb set pieces and along with Hiddleston, I was particularly taken by Anton Lesser’s Exeter.

The BBC, in conjunction with Neal Street Productions and NBC International, is to be congratulated on bringing so much of the Bard to the screen (The Hollow Crown starts tomorrow on BBC2) — but they shouldn’t stop here!

Shakespeare wrote a lot of other plays that fully deserve to be on the BBC.

Viva Forever, the musical featuring the Spice Girls’ songs, has taken a cool 1 million — half of it on the first day — since tickets went on sale after the show’s hoopla-heavy launch on Tuesday.

Now producer Judy Craymer and writer Jennifer Saunders — along with director Paul Garrington and choreographer Lynne Page — will get on with the job of coming up with a classy show to run at the Piccadilly Theatre from November 27.

It’s well to remember that Viva Forever is a stage musical and not a live concert featuring the actual Spice Girls!

Grand entrance: Writer Jennifer Saunders, third right, and Judy Craymer, third left, joined the Spice Girls at the Viva Forever launch at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London

Grand entrance: Writer Jennifer Saunders, third right, and Judy Craymer, third left, joined the Spice Girls at the Viva Forever launch at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London

Watch out for…

Bonnie Langford, who will play nosey office manager Roz in the musical 9 To 5, with Jackie Clune as Violet (Lily Tomlin in the film), Natalie Casey as Judy (Jane Fonda in movie), and Amy Lennox (pictured below) as Doralee — the part played by Dolly Parton in the picture. Ben Richards plays the boss.

The musical features a score by Ms Parton, who also had final word on the casting, and has been extensively reworked since it ran on Broadway a few seasons back.

It will begin performances at the Manchester Opera House Theatre from October 12, with a gala opening night on October 16 — with Ms Parton in attendance.

As she told me a while back: ‘I wouldn’t miss it because I believe in this show and I love your country.’ There you go.

9 to 5: Dolly Parton had the final word on casting in the musical

9 to 5: Dolly Parton had the final word on casting in the musical

Jenny Jules, Zoe Waites and Phoebe Fox, who play respectively Regan, Goneril and Cordelia — opposite Jonathan Pryce in the title role — in King Lear, which Michael Attenborough will direct at the Almeida Theatre, North London, with performances from August 31.

The production is part of the World Shakespeare Festival, being overseen by the Royal Shakespeare Company as part of the London 2012 Culture Festival.

Michael Byrne, Ian Gelder, Chook Sibtain, Clive Wood and Kieran Bew are also part of the Lear cast.

Robert Bathurst, who will star in Joe Penhall’s great play Blue/Orange for the Theatre Royal Brighton production company.

The play, with Bathurst as a psychiatrist at odds with a black patient, will run at the Theatre Royal, Brighton from September 10, then go on a ten-date provincial tour through until November 30.

Director Chris Luscombe and his partners at the Ambassador Theatre Group hope to bring Blue/Orange into the West End. The same production outfit has just started previewing Dandy Dick in Brighton with Patricia Hodge.

Matthew Lewis, who played bumbling Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter films.

Matthew will appear with Cian Barry, Arthur Darvill and Laurence Fox in a revival of Jonathan Lewis’s scorching play Our Boys, which will run at the Duchess Theatre from September 26.

The piece was first performed in the Eighties, but I recall seeing a production in 1995 at the Donmar. I remember the fury I felt at the way a group of Northern Ireland and Falkland veterans were left in the squalor of an Army hospital.

The authorities seemed to have forgotten that these wounded men should still be treated with dignity.

David Grindley will direct and I’m pleased he has cast Lewis. I was always struck by how he came across in the Potter films as a somewhat laughable character but then, in the last picture (Deathly Hallows 2), he was allowed to behave with such gallantry.