The Cherry Orchard (La Cerisaie)

Anton Tsjechov, Tiago Rodrigues, Isabelle Huppert, Adama Diop, Festival d'Avignon

Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard brought back to its core

After living in Paris for years, a woman, played by French star actress Isabelle Huppert, returns to the family estate where she grew up with her brother. It is about to be sold because of debts.

Portuguese director Tiago Rodrigues is known for his simple but effective theatrical language. With few elements, on a minimalist stage set, the focus is on the actors and the heart of their story. He likes to break with existing rules of theatre like the fourth wall and has actors address the audience directly.

Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard brought back to its core

After living in Paris for years, a woman, played by French star actress Isabelle Huppert, returns to the family estate where she grew up with her brother. It is about to be sold because of debts.

Portuguese director Tiago Rodrigues is known for his simple but effective theatrical language. With few elements, on a minimalist stage set, the focus is on the actors and the heart of their story. He likes to break with existing rules of theatre like the fourth wall and has actors address the audience directly.

This is the first time Rodrigues is working with an existing, classic text. Anton Chekhov wrote his tragicomic classic The Cherry Orchard in 1904. Though the piece is about giving up a centuries-old orchard during the early rise of capitalism, for Rodrigues it is at its core about the dawn of a new world no one understands yet. The world is changing faster than the family can keep up with, and each character reacts to the situation in a different way. Ljoebov (played by Huppert) clings to the past, radical in her nostalgia and melancholy, while for example the businessman Lopachin (played by Adama Diop) is more adaptive to the changes that are underway.

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dates

Fri June 10 8:00 PM

Sat June 11 8:00 PM

Sun June 12 3:00 PM

Prices

  • default from € 40
  • CJP/student € 12

language & duration

  • French surtitles: English, Dutch

  • 2 hours 10 minutes (zonder pauze)

Meet the artist

After the performance on June 11 there will be a conversation with director Tiagio Rodrigues, led by Sjeng Scheijen.

Background

A country house with a cherry orchard – the wealthy family living there can no longer afford it. Lyubov, the lady of the house, left for Paris years ago, after her son drowned in the nearby river. Now her daughter is bringing her back to Russia. The property is about to be sold by auction. A clever merchant, Lopakhin - who comes from a lower social class - has a plan to save the estate. He suggests sacrificing the cherry orchard and putting houses there to rent out. In order to avoid that scenario, the family looks into other options as well. For example, can foster daughter Varya not marry the wealthy merchant?

In The Cherry Orchard, Chekhov describes a time of great change and confusion that will drag the old, feudal world into the modern era, into capitalism and one day, perhaps, democracy. The writer does this by mixing different genres. Director Tiago Rodrigues: ‘Chekhov takes us to the frontiers of the theatrical genre. He gives all the clues to convince us that he wrote a comedy, but with each step we walk in its dramatic maze, we sense the whiff of tragedy more and more.’

Meet the artist

After the performance on June 11 there will be a conversation with director Tiagio Rodrigues, led by Sjeng Scheijen.

Background

A country house with a cherry orchard – the wealthy family living there can no longer afford it. Lyubov, the lady of the house, left for Paris years ago, after her son drowned in the nearby river. Now her daughter is bringing her back to Russia. The property is about to be sold by auction. A clever merchant, Lopakhin - who comes from a lower social class - has a plan to save the estate. He suggests sacrificing the cherry orchard and putting houses there to rent out. In order to avoid that scenario, the family looks into other options as well. For example, can foster daughter Varya not marry the wealthy merchant?

In The Cherry Orchard, Chekhov describes a time of great change and confusion that will drag the old, feudal world into the modern era, into capitalism and one day, perhaps, democracy. The writer does this by mixing different genres. Director Tiago Rodrigues: ‘Chekhov takes us to the frontiers of the theatrical genre. He gives all the clues to convince us that he wrote a comedy, but with each step we walk in its dramatic maze, we sense the whiff of tragedy more and more.’

Meeting Isabelle Huppert

Rodrigues is not known for his adaptations of existing pieces. Still, he decided on a classic piece. This decision came about in a meeting with star actress Isabelle Huppert: ‘All my projects are born of encounters with people. (...) For The Cherry Orchard, it all began in Lisbon with a conversation with Isabelle Huppert. We’d only recently met but we both quickly felt we wanted to work together. I wanted to adapt an existing text, which isn’t what I’m used to, as I usually write my own plays. I told her about Chekhov and was surprised to learn she’d never performed any of his plays. Afterwards, we continued talking about the Russian playwright. The Cherry Orchard seemed to be the most relevant work to talk about our time, and the complexity of the character of Lyubov seemed perfect for Isabelle Huppert.’

A poetic confusion of times

That it started with Huppert does not mean the piece has no more major roles than just Lyubov. There are many great roles for characters who each handle the situation and social changes in their own way. One striking role is for the French actor Adama Diop: the smart merchant Lopakhin who wants to buy the estate and whose family had been employed by the wealthy family previously. Now, he is about to reverse the roles and balance of power.

Rodrigues describes the major difference between Lyubov and the rest as follows: ‘Like all great tragic characters, she has “no hope left to hope” while the other characters do. They don’t know yet what is going to happen, but they all understand that the years to come will be very different from what they’ve always known. They’re still full of contradictions and doubts. They have desires and wants (...) and live in different eras, in a sort of poetic confusion of times. Some are at the end of their story, like Gayev, Lyubov’s brother, a decadent aristocrat obsessed with the beauty of the past. Others, like Lopakhin, with his project of buying the estate at auction, dream of the future and of a thriving economy. They dream, like Yasha, Lyubov’s young manservant, whose ambition is to succeed on his own and for himself.’    

Typical for Rodrigues

In a way that is typical for Rodrigues, he explored Chekhov’s text together with the actors without forcing a binding direction on them. Rodrigues uses Chekhov’s text ‘as a magnifying glass’ for looking at our world, in all its diversity: ‘The Cherry Orchard is often described as a choral work, but Chekhov’s approach is unique and subtle, a choral piece made up of solos. I think that each solo has to be performed at full power for it to work. We followed that idea of liveliness and diversity for the casting, which echoes in the various cultural backgrounds of the actors and musicians. Actors from different generations, different countries with different practices.’

The great challenges of our times

Rodrigues considered Chekhov’s last masterpiece to be a play about the end of things, about death and parting. Its plot, of course, revolves around the sale of an old family property and the sacrificing of a nearly hundred-year-old orchard. He now sees the piece as a celebration of change, a whirlwind of creative destruction. He uses it to show the energy with which ‘the inescapable force of change’ spurs the characters on.

Rodrigues: ‘If we stage The Cherry Orchard today, we are talking about what happens for the first time. For example, it is about Lopakhin, the first in his family line to have the means to purchase an estate in an era when slavery has been abolished and the aristocracy has fallen into decadence, making social climbing possible. Staging The Cherry Orchard in 2021 is to talk about an age of profound but still invisible social change. The characters still don’t understand that what they call ‘exceptional’ is the new norm. It is about an unprecedented historic moment. It is about the pains and hopes of a new world that no one entirely understands yet. It is about us.’      

*Quotes from Francis Cossus’ text for the 75th edition of the Festival d’Avignon and from Tiago Rodrigues Concept Note

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  • © Christophe Raynaud de Lage – Festival d’Avignon

  • © Christophe Raynaud de Lage – Festival d’Avignon

  • © Christophe Raynaud de Lage – Festival d’Avignon

  • © Christophe Raynaud de Lage – Festival d’Avignon

  • © Christophe Raynaud de Lage – Festival d’Avignon

  • © Christophe Raynaud de Lage – Festival d’Avignon

credits

cast Isabelle Huppert, Isabel Abreu, Nadim Ahmed, Suzanne Aubert, Marcel Bozonnet, Océane Cairaty, Alex Descas, Adama Diop, David Geselson, Grégoire Monsaingeon, Alison Valence, Tom Adjibi music performed by Manuela Azevedo, Hélder Gonçalves text Anton Tchekhov translation André Markowicz, Françoise Morvan translation in English for surtitles Panthea direction Tiago Rodrigues artistic collaboration the Jeune Théâtre Populaire, Magda Bizarro stage design Fernando Ribeiro lights Nuno Meira costumes José António Tenente hair & make-up Sylvie Cailler, Jocelyne Milazzo composition Hélder Gonçalves lyrics Tiago Rodrigues sound Pedro Costa direction assistance Ilyas Mettioui production Festival d’Avignon coproduction Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe, Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, Théâtre National Populaire de Villeurbanne, Comédie de Genève, La Coursive Scène nationale de la Rochelle, Wiener Festwochen, Comédie de Clermont Ferrand, National Taichung Theater (Taiwan), Teatro di Napoli – Teatro Nazionale, Fondazione Campania Dei Festival – Compania Teatro Festival, Théâtre de Liège, DC&J Création, Holland Festival, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam, Soutien Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian, Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral de Belgique et de Inver Tax Shelter set construction Ateliers du Festival d'Avignon costumes manufacture Atelier du TNP de Villeurbanne residencies La FabricA du Festival d’Avignon, à l’Odéon – Théâtre de l’Europe

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