Moment supreme by Isabelle Huppert in 'De Kersentuin' disrupted by theater hooligan

Isabelle Huppert falters. She has just learned that her beloved estate, the cherry orchard where she grew up, has been sold. Staring into nothingness, she takes steps and sits down, eyes closed, defeated. A spotlight remains on her, in an attempt by director Tiago Rodrigues to find her star power to fully utilize.

This version of The Cherry Garden, at the Holland Festival, has great event value thanks to the French superstar (which also attracted the royal couple). It also attracts a theater hooligan, who takes her time in the front row to photograph the fragile actress at this moment supreme.

The expressiveness of the performance does not match the allure of Huppert. Rodrigues shows a barrage of ideas and loose ideas, but his direction lacks a guiding thought or tone that propels the action. You actually have no idea what he wants with this Chekhov.

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In a sober decor of chairs and chandeliers on rails, the more than ten characters talk about all kinds of things: the weather, debts, love, wanting to get married, the past. For the most part, it is idle talk in this edit. There is craziness, there is juggling, there is melancholy musing, there is serious weltschmerz, but there is no emotional layer. The music, by two musicians on guitar and keyboard, and a few songs ensures further fragmentation.

The woman who plays Huppert, Lyubov, has returned home after years in Paris. Her son has drowned in the nearby river and that grief sometimes suddenly overwhelms her. Businessman Jermolai Lopakhin (Adama Diop) makes her an offer: invest in summer cottages to rent out. But practical matters are not spent on Lyubov. Her future is at stake, everything changes, but she is a nervous type and a dreamer, living in her own world.

Own rhythm

When Lyubov runs, jumps, cries, dances and screams, Huppert often, suddenly, talks about the weather or tells her daughter to marry a man. After a hesitant start, in which the 69-year-old actress does not put enough power in her voice, she is gaining steam. In a few monologues she finds her own rhythm in the text and shows the breadth of her talent.

The true star of the evening is Adama Diop. His playing makes the 130-minute sit-down light at times. His businessman is a one-piece man, lovable, witty, passionate in his ambitions. He buys the estate, is drunk with happiness. My father and grandfather were still serfs in this house, where they were not even allowed to enter the kitchen, he explains, but he quickly turns out to be a new tyrant. In his scenes, you do sense an idea: about how people transition to a new era, being aware of the past and not making the same mistakes.

Diop is allowed to address the audience after the sale of Lyubov’s house leaves records. Chekhov could have quit after this third act, he says, but he wrote a fourth. After the promise that it will only take twenty minutes: “We are going to do our best.” It’s not the actors’ fault, but here you feel the impotence of a director who doesn’t dare to take over the wheel. Rodrigues, who three years ago still had a tight Antony and Cleopatra delivered at the Holland Festival, let his piece die down calmly.

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