Vassily is a penniless gentleman of questionable provenance who's dependent on a young, pretty, blonde woman to whom he's deeply attached to the point of obsession for his home. Or, to put it another way, Vassily is Game for Thrones' Ser Jorah Mormont in a different costume. And who plays Jorah Mormont? Iain Glen!
Deeply annoying, then, that Iain Glen was forced to pull out of playing said role in The Old Vic's revival of Ivan Turgenev's Russian comedy by ill health (get well soon, awesome man).
Good god is it missing him.
Fortune's Fool focuses on Vassily's story. Who is this penniless man that's been living in his old master's house for thirty years? How did he get there? Why was he allowed to stay? Is he really an unjustly disinherited member of the local gentry? He is a complex, tragi-comic character; a figure of fun to be humiliated for some, a figure to be pitied and protected for others. A difficult part that requires an actor of serious class. Say, I don't know, Iain Glen?
Iain Glen's understudy, Patrick Cremin, is no Iain Glen. Obviously. Although he gave a competent run through of a complex script - some of the monologues he had to get his tongue around can perhaps be summed up as Sir Humphry on acid - for me he just didn't connect with the material in a meaningful way. I didn't laugh at the funny bits, I didn't feel any emotion in any of the tragic bits. It was all very one note and very bland.
On the plus side, the other lead actor, Richard McCabe, was excellent as the boorish, old money caricature Tropatchov. An unpleasant, but very very funny character, McCabe extracted every ounce of both humour and malice from him in a scene stealer of a performance. For me he saved the show and kept me interested, at least when he was on the stage. The production looked beautiful too and the staging really worked.
Overall though, an uneven and unexceptional watch. Frustrating really, as with Iain Glen in the central role I can see how it could've been excellent. Ah well. Game of Thrones is back in April...