My second Camden Fringe stop yesterday was Broken Word’s duo of Chekhov comic plays: The Bear and The Proposal.

Detail from flyer for A Tale of Two Chekhov’s

The Bear is perhaps the best known of the two, in which a mourning widow takes to drink in memory of her worthless husband, before meeting a burly, aggressive, manly creditor. Actors Abby Dunlavy and Julius Wills make the most of the sharp wit and the upending of a chaise longue (which I was slightly disappointed to hear was “part of the show”!). I liked Will Banister’s unhinged butler, too.

Julius Wills in The Bear

The Proposal has had a gender change in the person of Lomov (Dunlavy), an anxious soul of a girl in suit, waistcoat and glasses who seeks the hand in marriage of Natalya (Imogen Hunter), daughter of her Cowardesque landowner and neighbour (Banister). Arguments, point-scoring, and the seeds of an unhappy union-to-be border on the farcical in this skit.

Abby Dunlavy and Imogen Hunter in The Proposal

If you only think of Chekhov for his dark and ponderous full-length plays, you may be surprised, delighted and certainly amused by the wit on show in these short plays. And The Proposal has a very funny ending, building throughout from a largely mute role from Wills.

Ditch that apostrophe in Chekhov’s, though! A Tale of Two Chekhov’s – The Bear directed by Imogen Hunter, The Proposal directed by Julius Wills – continues to romp and amuse at the Etcetera Theatre until the 25 August.

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