A rush of excitement

Classical Russian literature has brought Academy award-winning actors Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush Australia’s most prestigious theatre awards, the equivalent of Britain’s Olivier Award or America’s Tonys.

­Tour-de-force stage roles – one based on Gogol’s Notes of a Madman and the other on Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya – have won them each a Helpmann award, one of the highest accolades in the world of theatre.

Blanchett’s portrayal of Yelena in Chekhov’s tragicomedy – staged by the Sydney Theatre Company – has been described as stunning and enthralling.  The actress is best-known for her starring role in the film, Elizabeth I of England.  

Commentators described her performance in the new adaptation of Uncle Vanya by Blanchett’s husband and co-artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company, Andrew Upton, as raw, sharp and emotional, perfectly in tune with the key Stanislavsky System.

Geoffrey Rush in Notes of a Madman (Image from www.belvoir.com.au)

­The Oscar-winning actress was quoted as saying that it was her husband who fostered in her a love for Russian classics. Upton made his name as a playwright and stage director who brought together a number of Chekhov’s works, including The Cherry Orchard, Three Sisters and Ivanov.    

With Chekhov’s subjects and characters just as relevant today as they were two hundred years ago, stage directors on all continents have been turning to the leading light of Russian drama.

Blanchett’s counterpart, the star of Shine and Shakespeare in Love, Geoffrey Rush, has been delivering a white-performance in Nikolay Gogol’s famous comic tale, Madman, described as a “feast of laughter, rage, sadness, loss, love, joy and hope.”

The psychologically and physically-demanding role of Aksentiy Poprishchin was an exercise in skill, passion and irony.

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