Anton Checkov's other rarely-performed piece bears a few similarities to the first one (recently reviewed as "The Present"). Both centre around a married man of low income and uncertain future who engages in casual love-making with the neighborhood rich people, both feature an out-of-control party in their second acts, and both end broadly similarly. "Ivanov" does have the distinction that it was performed during Chechov's lifetime, though, and extensively revised a number of times. And that level of testing means that it's a tighter piece, more focussed. And in Eamon Flack's adaptation, it manages to be both heartbreaking and wildly funny, often within seconds of one another.
There's a rich array of characters, though everything centres on Ewan Leslie's Ivanov, a man who is aware of his personal failures and inabilities yet struggles to do something vaguely decent with himself while surrounded with absurdity and grasping need. Leslie shows a remarkable range and depth of emotion - from detached observer to romantic, even loving husband, to tormented thinker. Even when he's drawn into making a mistake all over again, you can't help but emphathise.
Elsewhere there's strong support - whether it's Zahra Newman who's a delightfully sunny presence as his wife up until the point at which she's not sunny any more, Blazey Best being the most nouveau of the nouveu riche, John Bell giving great Curmudgeonly Uncle work, John Howard as a man bored and exhausted but somehow continuing to go on, Mel Dyer giving deathstares as the maid, Fazzal Bazi a lord of misrule as Ivanov's cousin, Airlie Dodds innocently deluded as a pure force of passion, Helen Thompson luxuriating in wealthy crapulence and Yalin Ozucilek, magnificnetly offended that nobody realises how badly everybody is behaving.
Flack directs to perfection - it's a play that's both personal and yet wildly political - the inner angst is just as much driven by money and class and who has power as it is about who's lust is leading them where. Michael Hankin's set modulates beautifully and entirely suits the belvoir space (and the set changes are highlights), while Mel Page's costumes are led by and reflect their characters down to the ground.
A lot of Belovir this year has felt strangely tenative - not fully going into the works presented, at a slight remove. But this is the full meal- rich, whole hearted, great theatre. Absolutely worth the watch.