Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Cherry Orchard

the Cherry Orchard

All Russia is our orchard

Trofimov, Act Two

Nevertheless he thought he had the hang of the main points of the story. The Cherry Orchard belonged to a Mrs Ranevskaya who is returning home from Paris at the beginning of the play. The estate and the Cherry Orchard will have to be sold to pay off the family debts unless she agrees to cut all the trees down and build villas for the new middle class on the site of the orchard and live off the rental income. A local merchant, risen from the ranks of the former peasants, offers to help her do this, but she refuses. There are two of her daughters, one adopted, and her brother in the cast, all going to be affected by the sale. There is an aged servant called Firs who regrets the passing of the old days of the serfs when everybody knew their place. There is a perpetual student called Trofimov who boasts of not being thirty yet. All of these characters, Powerscourt felt, were out of place. They didn’t seem to belong to their own time, to their own space. They were displaced persons in what had become, for them, almost a foreign country. They floated precariously between the old world of Ranevskaya estate and the different world they would inhabit when it was gone.

Very near the end of the stage was empty, with the sound of all the doors being locked with their keys, and all the carriages leaving. The silence was broken by the striking of a solitary axe against a tree, a rather melancholy sound. The old servant appears. He has been forgotten, left behind. Suddenly Powerscourt felt very strongly that the Cherry Orchard, for Chekhov, was Russia. The old order of long ago, of masters and serfs, has long gone. Nobody is sure what is going to replace it. Russia is being sold off to the new capitalist class, who will cut down the cherry orchards and build the villas while the previous owners complete their abdication of responsibility by going back to their lovers in Paris.

‘Life has gone by as if I hadn’t lived,’ says the eighty-seven-year-old Firs at the very end, ‘you’ve got no strength left, nothing, nothing.’ There is the distant sound of a string breaking, as if in the sky, a dying melancholy noise. Silence falls and the only thing to be heard is a tree being struck again with an axe far off in the orchard. The final curtain falls. The old order is being cut down. Powerscourt wondered what Dr. Chekhov would have made of Bloody Sunday and the current paralysis in his country. Would he have any prescriptions? Or would he be content to describe the symptoms?

The scene is described during the play presentation in February 1905 at St. Petersburg, Russia. And Trofimov describes the situation: The Intelligentsia only talk about what is significant, they talk philosophy, but meanwhile in front of their eyes the workers eat disgusting food, sleep without pillows, thirty or forty to a room, everywhere fleas, damp, stench, immorality…

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