Trevor Howard in The Cherry Orchard

Trevor Howard in The Cherry Orchard

British productions of Chekhov's works, acknowledged as masterpieces, have often, by concentrating too hard on attempting to capture the essence of Russian 'soul', fallen into melancholy. While writing The Cherry Orchard, Chekhov himself was uncertain how it would turn out. It was with some surprise that in 1904, having finished it, he announced 'I'm afraid it has turned out to be not a drama but a comedy, and in places even a farce'.

Reviews of this 1954 production, adapted and directed by John Gielgud were particularly impressed with Gielgud's 'extraordinarily complete stage realisation of the peculiar elasticity of Slav melancholy ... so sad and yet so full of fun, turning as suddenly from serious comedy to farce as from farce to pathos'. Trevor Howard, seen here as Lopakhin, the wealthy peasant who buys the decaying Ranyevsky estate, was also praised for capturing the character's ambivalent 'uneasy triumph'. Howard is best known now as a film actor, especially for his role in the 1945 film of Noël Coward's Brief Encounter.