Uncle Varick - Chekov transported to the Highlands

Ashley Smith and Jimmy Chisholm in Uncle Varick
Ashley Smith and Jimmy Chisholm in Uncle Varick
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Audiences at the Adam Smith Theatre are set to be transported back to 1960’s rural Scotland when Rapture Theatre returns with its latest production next week.

The company, which brought ‘The Sash’ to the Kirkcaldy stage last year are back and this time the team are delighted to present ‘Uncle Varick’, John Byrne’s contemporary adaptation of Chekov’s classic ‘Uncle Vanya’.

Starring alongside ‘High Road’ legend and ‘Para Handy’ star Jimmy Chisholm in the production is Ashley Smith, who hails from Fife and has previously appeared in ‘Scot Squad’ and ‘The Sash’.

She takes on the role of Shona in the play and is looking forward to bringing the production to the Kingdom.

She said: “I’m from Markinch so the Adam Smith is the local theatre for me.

“I grew up with theatre there.

“To me it’s my home crowd when I come to Kirkcaldy and my family and friends are always there.

“It’s a nice feeling when I come back.

“We did a week long stint there last year with ‘The Sash’.

“It was well received and I’m pleased to be coming back.

“I always look forward to that.

“It’s great and means people like my gran can come along and see the show. She wouldn’t make it further afield.

“It’s good to come back and perform for people that have supported me from the early days.”

‘Uncle Varick’ is the moving, yet humourous story of what happens when the rock and roll of swinging 60s London collides with the rock and moss of remote Scotland.

It follows Sandy Sheridan, pretentious art critic and self proclaimed cultural icon, who returns from London to Scottish country life with his new, much younger wife.

Waiting for him are his stoical daughter Shona, played by Ashley, and his ex-brother in law, Uncle Varick.

Add in the handsome doctor and the not so handsome neighbour and you have a play full of comedy, jealousy, pathos, passion and lust, and some very dodgy chainsaws.

Ashley continued: “It’s been a bit sporadic in terms of rehearsing in venues here and there, but this week is our first full week in the same venue.

“By the time we get to Kirkcaldy we’ll have had a good run.

“It’s amazing to be part of it to be honest, the cast is just fantastic.

“It’s full of people I have grown up watching and seen on stage when I was training and it’s a real privilege to be performing along with them.

“It’s been enjoyable so far and I’m sure it will be more and more enjoyable as the tour goes on and we get the feedback from the audiences.”

Directed by Michael Emans, the play has a quality cast of Scottish actors.

As well as Jimmy Chisholm playing the lead role and Ashley, it also stars Dave Anderson (City Lights, Gregory’s Girl), John Stahl (High Road, Game of Thrones), George Anton (Hamlet at EIF, Law and Order), Steve Fitzgerald (Shang a Lang), Maureen Carr (Still Game, The Guid Sisters), Anne Kidd (Shetland) and Selina Boyack (Noel Coward’s Private Lives).

The sensational 60s soundtrack which the play is set to is arranged and performed by Dave ‘Wildcat’ Anderson.

The design is by Jessica Brettle and the lighting design by Malcolm Rogan.

“It’s a great adaptation, it’s up to date, well, it’s set in the 60s,” said Ashley.

“It is really accessible.

“The characters are really clear and the relationships are strong.

“In this version my character is called Shona, but in the original it’s Sonya.

“She’s the niece of Uncle Varick and lives with him on the estate.

“Her father who lives in London comes back with his new wife who is a lot younger than him.

“It’s about the tensions that come with that.

“They have a tricky relationship, he’s not been around much and she’s much closer to her uncle than her dad.

“She’s in turmoil as she’s in love with the doctor character in the play who visits all the time, but she can’t find a way to tell him how she feels.

“Her heart gets a little bit broken and she has other family issues that evolve.

“It’s her journey and how she deals with it.

“She’s a strong character and in charge of the estate.

“It’s her estate now since her mother died.

“She has to keep things together and gradually her uncle has lost faith.

“She’s taken on the role of the bread winner.

“The play is about how she overcomes her personal issues.

“I think there’s always challenges in a role.

“For me with Shona it’s finding balance between being very much a girl and having these naivities in love but also being old before her time with the business head and running the family.

“It’s the balance between when she shows her girly side and keeps that to herself and tries to be more in control of the situation.

“John’s written some brilliant scenes between myself and Uncle Varick and myself with the doctor. It’s a great role to play.”

Rapture Theatre’s version of ‘Uncle Varick’, produced in association with the Tolbooth, is the first revival of John Byrne’s play since it premiered in 2004.

Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s work, on which this production is based was first published in 1897 and premiered in Moscow in 1899.

John Byrne, known for his plays such as ‘The Slab Boys’ and the television series ‘Tutti Frutti’ and for his iconic artwork, has created some great Scottish comedy.

And audiences of this play are encouraged in publicity material to think ‘Monarch of the Glen’ meets the Rolling Stones.

‘Uncle Varick’ comes to Adam Smith Theatre on Friday, May 16.