Chekhov’s Baby looks set to provide a fun evening.
The premise of the play is ingenious: Neil considers himself Chekhov’s biggest fan and, having read the plays in Russian, feels he is entitled to the part of Vanya in an amateur production of Uncle Vanya. Unfortunately, Neil cannot act. In a generous gesture the director casts him as the watchman- a two-line role performed from offstage.
Chekhov’s Baby tracks Neil’s desperate efforts to take over the show, from his disastrous audition through to his last ditch attempt to win the lead part. As the programme proclaims, ‘this is a play for anyone who has ever failed to get something they definitely deserved because of someone else’s poor judgment’.
Directed, written by and featuring Felix Legge (ironically playing the part of a director who also acts in his production) this is clearly one man’s vision, yet his humour will have a wide appeal. The dialogue is clever and while the characters risk falling into the clichés of ‘mad knitting woman’, and ‘hot jerk’, the actors are well cast and their performances are strong.
Neil (Jack Peters) feels like a mixture of all four characters from The Inbetweeners. Some of the physical comedy felt slightly flat- particularly when he performs a hideous jig, proudly boasting, ‘the ladies love my moves’. There are also moments of comic brilliance, such as his wickedly funny audition speech at the start of the play.
The subplot is graced with two great performances. Lauren Hyett is the saccharine Nancy who insists on bringing her baby to rehearsals, ignoring the attention of her drooling co-stars. Louisa Holloway is equally amusing as her grossly overacting ‘hacktor’ co-star. Jordan Waller as Chris, the actor playing Vanya, is also very funny, announcing early on in the play, ‘I’m here to provide witty asides’ and laughing at his own jokes throughout the rehearsals. Chekhov’s Baby promises to be great fun.