Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

27/05/2017 - 24/06/2017

Production Details

The New Zealand Premiere
Proudly sponsored by Paul & Danika McArthur and Vivien Hirschfeld. 

Three Days in the Country is set on a beautiful Russian country estate where the arrival of a handsome new tutor brings reckless, romantic desire to an eccentric household.

Based on Ivan Turgenev’s passionate, moving comedy, A Month in the Country which has been a source of inspiration for TV, films, a ballet, and the plays of Chekhov.  Patrick Marber’s interpretation is a witty and elegant update on this Russian classic.

Over three adventure-filled summer days, this new arrival bestows lessons in love for young and old alike: first love and forbidden love, ridiculous love, maternal love, platonic love, the love left unsaid… and the love which must win out!

“I am truly excited by this play as I think Three Days in the Country is an excellent ensemble piece full of rich characters,” says Director Susan Wilson.

“I adore Chekhov and having directed his best-known plays I am acutely aware of the influence of Turgenev on those works.  Marber’s version of A Month in the Country is a smart, modern update, with the same secret longings and unrequited love. It is vibrant and humorous and I can’t wait to share this acclaimed play with Wellington audiences.”

“I’ve been lucky enough to assemble a 13 strong stellar cast of New Zealand’s finest theatrical talents – featuring: Ken Blackburn, Peter Hambleton, Simon Leary, Carmel McGlone, Andrew Paterson, Harriet Prebble, Gavin Rutherford, Bronwyn Turei, Jason Whyte, and Irene Wood.”

 “…emotionally eloquent and disarmingly funny, delicately fretted with melancholy”
 – The Stage

“An evening of lovingly textured pleasure”
– The Economist

“Painful and potent as a glass of neat chilled vodka, downed in one”
– Time Out

“…the wit of the dialogue captivates. And, as in an elegant dance, the play keeps turning on its own heel, moving between comedy and anguish, reminding us of love as an impractical joke”
 – The Observer

By Patrick Marber (Closer, Notes on a Scandal)
A version of Turgenev’s A Month in the Country
Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki Street, Wellington
27 May – 24 June
Tues-Thurs 6.30pm
Fri & Sat 8pm / Sun 4pm
TICKETS: $25-$52 / Friends of Circa $38
BOOKINGS: 04 801 7992 /

CAST (in order of appearance)
Rakitin:  Gavin Rutherford
Natalya:  Bronwyn Turei
Schaaf:  Andrew Paterson
Anna:  Irene Wood
Lizaveta:  Carmel McGlone
Kolya:  Alex Buyck or Felix Steiner
Vera:  Harriet Prebble
Belyaev:  Simon Leary
Arkady:  Jason Whyte
Shpigelsky:  Peter Hambleton
Bolshintsov:  Ken Blackburn
Matvey:  Shauwn Keil
Katya:  Maia Diamond
Servant:  Alexandra Taylor

Directed by Susan Wilson 
Music and Sound Design: Gareth Farr 
Set Design: Ian Harman 
Lighting Design: Marcus McShane  
Costume Design: Sheila Horton

Stage Manager:   Freya van Alphen Fyfe
Assistant Stage Manager:  Alexandra Taylor
Technical Operator:  Zoë Higgins
Violinist:  Vesa-Matti Leppänen
Russian Coach:  Yury Gezentsvey
Publicity:  Brianne Kerr
Graphic Design:  Rose Miller
Photography:  Stephen A’Court
Box Office:  Eleanor Strathern
FOH Manager:  Suzanne Blackburn  

Theatre ,

A powerful study of human nature

Review by Ewen Coleman 29th May 2017

The name of Russian playwright Ivan Turgenev may not be well known to many theatre-goers, but his style of writing about upper-class Russian families that are heavily character driven with little or no plot will be well-recognised through the work of Anton Chekhov, who was writing many years after Turgenev and who was probably influenced by him.

Set in a large sprawling family estate over three days in mid-19th century Russia, Patrick Marber’s Three Days in the Country is a paired-down [sic] version of Turgenev’s original A Month in the Country.

While not a lot appears to happen, nearly all the lives of the family, their employees and servants, get turned on their heads so that life as they knew it will never be the same again. [More


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Impressive exploration of timeless themes

Review by John Smythe 28th May 2017

English comedian, playwright, director, puppeteer, actor and screenwriter, Patrick Marber is one of a number of contemporary playwrights doing very nicely out of ‘versioning’ classic plays that originated in other languages.* His new version of Russian playwright Ivan Turgenev’s A Month in the Country has been sped up and tighted to become Three Days in the Country, and it retains its mid-19th century setting on a Russian country estate.

The premise is that the equilibrium of the estate has become upset by the arrival of a handsome new tutor for the owners’ 10 year-old boy, who is thriving under his tutelage. Caught up in the emotional swirls are a teenaged ward, other tutors, an eccentric doctor, a loyal friend, a lovelorn neighbour, an aging mother and, of course, servants.

It is important to note that Turgenev’s play predates Anton Chekhov’s major works by some 40 years, not to mention his short play A Marriage Proposal (1890) which surely owes something to the scene between Turgenev’s doctor and music tutor which opens Act IV. On the other hand A Month in the Country, which was initially banned in Russia for its ‘immorality’, owes its subsequent popularity to Chekhov’s champion Constantin Stanislavski, whose Moscow Arts Theatre revived it in 1909 (between revolutions).

As we observe these mostly privileged lives in the country, the first Russian Revolution is still more than half a century away but Marber does add a brief mention of a socialist tract about freeing the serfs whose labour on the estates produces the middle class’s wealth. Change, as ever, is in the wind.

It’s intriguing to consider the action plays out in that ancient continent as new settlers colonise New Zealand, between the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and the land confiscations that provoked the Land Wars we have yet to commemorate adequately. The current ubiquity of Russia in our news feed, and the rising ‘first world’ appetite for some kind of socio-economic revolution, also brings resonance to the context in which we may view Three Days in the Country.

Foremost, however, is the play’s exploration of the nature of ‘love’ and marriage. This Susan Wilson-directed production ensures we are drawn inexorably into sharing, judging and empathising with each character’s experience of ‘love’ or its absence. And because emotional truth underpins each moment, their interactions generate a great deal of heart-felt comedy.

The most afflicted is Natalya, mistress of the estate, who leaves all the business to her driven and ever-inventive husband, Arkady. Consequently she is bored, self-involved and susceptible to fresh possibilities: namely Belayev, the young tutor to their 10 year-old son Kolya. Her vulnerability makes herreliant, however, on the loyalty of a past suitor, Raktin, whom she has summoned to gain his ever-willing support.

That we care at all for Natalya, even when others rail against her snobbery and dubious morals, is testament to Bronwyn Turei’s exquisitely modulated performance. Although Jason Whyte makes it clear why Arkady is not sufficient for her, he commands our empathy as he tries to bury the deep-set pain of that discovery.

As Ratkin, the loyal friend, Gavin Rutherford personifies the anguish of unrequited love in all its tragi-comic dimensions. And late in the play he delivers a blistering outburst that demands we take him seriously, even as we wrestle with the validity or otherwise of his bleak assessment of the human condition.

Natalya and Arkady’s 17 year-old ward, Vera, is also in love with Belayev, and Harriet Prebble likewise demands we take her passion seriously, despite Vera’s age. The battle between Natalya and Vera is one of this production’s dramatic high points.

The third woman to be besotted with Belayev is the maid, Katya, who is inconveniently engaged to the manservant, Matvey. Maia Diamond’s Katya is as assertive as she is delectable and Shauwn Keil makes the most of his brief opportunity to lift Matvey from cipher into a third dimension.

Initially Simon Leary’s astutely crafted Belayev seems innocent of all the trouble he’s causing. As the action progresses it would be easy to judge him as insensitive and self-serving. But after an inauspicious start in life, Belayev is still finding his way in the adult world, not least in needing to reconcile his love of the house he now lives in with his interest in the emerging socialist agenda. There is also an intriguing hint that he has yet to determine his sexual preference.  

Andrew Paterson convincingly embodies Koly’s German tutor, Schaaf. The new ending Marber has crafted gives the last word, and a hint if how the future may play out, to him and Kolya (delightfully played on opening night by Alex Buyck, who alternates with Felix Steiner).

Kolya has a music tutor too, Lizaveta, whose status vis-à-vis love, marriage or independence is superbly realised in a subtly comical performance by Carmel McGlone. The aforementioned ‘proposal’ scene – another high point – occurs between her and Peter Hambleton’s lumbago-blighted Dr Shpigelsky, whose surprising honesty raises some very pertinent questions about the basis upon which too many marriages are founded and doomed to founder.

Ken Blackburn brings his trademark comic sensibility to the rich but lonely neighbour, Bolshintsov. Arkady’s mother, Anna, is a salutary presence in the persona of Irene Wood. Their one moment of true connection speaks volumes.

Sheila Horton’s costume designs are eloquently befitting of each character. Gareth Farr’s music embellishes the production beautifully and his exquisite setting for a song with words by Alexander Pushkin is given delicately by Diamond’s Kotya and robustly by McGlone and Hambleton’s Lizaveta and Shpigelsky.  

Ian Harman’s mostly wooden set design features a fall of shredded fabric that simultaneously suggests decay, and the ivy that clings to mansions and outlasts generations. The reveal of the conservatory, and the implications of its role in the endless quest for love, adds visual richness – and the rustic fence and stile is a nice touch too.

The lighting design by Marcus McShane is mostly bright and I note the strong side-lights throw disconcerting shadows across the faces of characters quite often. I wonder if the idea is to suggest perpetual sunset, but doubt it.

In retrospect I find myself deeply impressed with how comprehensively Three Days in the Country explores its timeless and universal themes. The myth that Chekhov invented subtext is exploded: Turgenev creates it, Marber consildates it and Wilson and her team mine its veins of truth with profound sensitivity.  
 – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Marber’s reimagining of Swedish playwright August Strindberg’s Miss Julie (1888), retitled After Miss Julie – which began as a BBC Two television drama in 1995 then opened at London’s Dommar Warehouse in 2003 – is relocated to an English country house in July 1945, on the night of the British Labour Party’s landslide election victory.  His renovation of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler (1891), now set in the 21st century, opened late last year at the UK National Theatre’s Lyttelton auditorium – where Three Days in the Country premiered in July 2015.

For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


Editor June 8th, 2017

Here is the link to John Smythe’s chat about Three Days in the Country, Tiki Taane Mahuta and Carmen on RNZ National with Jess Mulligan Thurs 8 June.

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