Uncle Vanya at Chichester Festival Theatre

Poet and author Benjamin Zephaniah

BIG INTERVIEW Benjamin Zephaniah: 'I'm always creative – I've never had writer's block and never been bored'

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We laughed with him, we laughed at him and finally our hearts went out to Uncle Vanya when he collapsed into a sobbing wreck, unable to cope with the futility of his life.

What a performance from Roger Allam, who took on the mantle of Chekhov’s hero at the Minerva Theatre in director Jeremy Herrin’s brilliantly-cast production.

He was a man who had sacraficed his intellect and his inheritance to keep the family’s estate from ruin – but faced the ultimate betrayal by his egotistical brother-in-law Professor Serebryakov, played with extraordinary sangfroid by Timothy West.

Allam may be considerably older than Vanya’s 47 years, but his vulnerablity and boyish petulance rendered that detail irrelevant.

The acting throughout was gripping, thanks in no small part to Michael Frayn’s witty translation which rolled off the tongue.

Alexander Hanson was irresistible as Doctor Astrov who seduces the Professor’s young wife Yelena. Dervla Kirwan, in the role of ‘plain’ Sonya who loves Astrov, was superb on self-sacrafice and restraint.

Even the bored Yelena played by Lara Pulver radiated. Delicious details like the heavy rain battering against the windowpanes heightened our sense of reality and brought the tragicomic action into sharper relief. This was a triumph.

Until April 28.