The Night Before The Trial and The Sneeze

The Night Before The Trial and The Sneeze

Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Neil Cooper

WHILE John Byrne's 1960s reinvention of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters played to packed houses in the Tron's main house, Marcus Roche's bite-size staging of two of the Russian master's miniatures was a fitting curtain-raiser.

Roche himself opens proceedings as Chekhov, manning the decks with some particularly riotous Russian dance numbers on the stereo before reading brief excerpts from his diaries. These are written shortly after the original production of The Three Sisters has been a massive flop, and Chekhov considers penning funnier fare once more.

This leads neatly into Roche's adaptation of the unfinished The Night Before The Trial, in which a man awaits his fate on the eve of being hauled before the court for attempted bigamy and attempted murder.

He is subsequently usurped by a young woman in need of medical assistance he'd be happy to administer if only her pesky husband wasn't also on the scene.

Played script in hand, as if the words were still hot from Chekhov's pen, the story's inconclusive ending segues into Michael Frayn's near-wordless The Sneeze like a Monty Python routine, with its author stepping in, only to keel over so a reserve is forced to take his place.

Adapted from Chekhov's short story, Death Of A Government Clerk, The Sneeze sees a very sticky faux pas during a night at the opera upended into a piece of silent movie slapstick as dexterous as Frayn's own farces.

Both of these fleeting moments of human behaviour are lifted off the page by the production's casually dressed quintet, with an irreverent brio that we need to see more of in productions of Chekhov.