Review: Wild Honey

Zoe Barnes 1 February 2019
Image Credit: Wild Honey via Facebook

★★★

This week’s ADC main show, Wild Honey, is sprinkled with wit, humour and a fair dose of irony. Although it is an enjoyable production, it suffers from a general lack of direction.

Wild Honey fails to deliver the expectations of a traditional tragicomedy. At times, it felt as though the production was directed by someone who did not quite understand the tragicomic nuances of Chekhov. The ‘tragic’ aspect was swept aside by one dimensional caricatures framed by a cartoonish set with clumsy, swelling trees. Even during the final darker moments of the play, the audience could not contain their fits of giggles. Each cast member seemed to have their own idea of what the play should be, and some were at odds with each other, creating a somewhat jarring awkwardness. Consequently, the performance seemed to be a parody of Chekhov, set within the play as a whole. This is not Chekhov as you know it; any potential emotional gravitas has been left untapped.

As a comedy, it soared into a farcical comedy of errors. While it was a fun evening, the production was really more comedic than strictly necessary. There are good points to this, as some of the actors (most notably the Triletzkys, père and fils, who became a bit of a double act post-interval) flourished under comic circumstances. It must also be noted that Emily Beck, as Sasha, gave a rather compelling performance, successful in part in conveying the tragic nuances of her character. However, her acting efforts were undermined by the Triletzkys and sometimes even by her husband (Jesper Eriksson). Eriksson is well-suited to this charismatic, charmingly arrogant role. But at one point, he too appeared to have lost sense of the intricate dilemmas and the subtleties that shape Wild Honey. He was seeking laughter in his lines when the audience expected severity.

Inge-Vera Lipsius plays Anna Petrovna with natural flair and is entirely believable in her role as Queen of her little community, raising the initial proceedings out of pure comic buffoonery. However, Kay Benson’s Sofya is less convincing. That which should come off as a spiritual connection with the world around her in her initial lines comes off as a bit sappy, and sometimes she is rather too prim and proper for us to believe that the script portrays her as a lively character. That being said, this discrepancy is through no fault of Benson; rather, it seems as though there was a lack of direction. In fact, the production had a fragile uniform vision. The set, for example, is moderately lumbering and oppressive in full light, with a cartoonish blue curtain background which clashes against the well-conceived but understated monochromatic costumes. This is partly redeemed by the night scenes, as the lighting is used more interestingly, and the hanging lanterns really add a charming note.

In my honest opinion, Wild Honey is not a great production. Even so, it is entertaining and full of belly laughs. That in itself is arguably enough to satisfy everyone – everyone except the Chekhov purists.