‘Vanya’ review — Andrew Scott delivers a tour-de-force performance

Read our five-star review of Andrew Scott in Vanya at the Duke of York’s Theatre. The strictly limited run is playing in the West End through 21 October.

Suzy Evans
Suzy Evans

Andrew Scott is known around the world for his work on screen, but the multi-talented performer is truly a creature of the theatre. And his stage chops are at full tilt in his one-man manifesto Vanya, a solo adaptation of the Chekhov classic Scott co-created with adaptor Simon Stephens, director Sam Yates, and designer Rosanna Vize.

The audience might initially enter the Duke of York’s Theatre, where the show is in a strictly limited run through 21 October, to catch a glimpse of Hot Priest from Fleabag or Moriarity from Sherlock onstage. But they’ll leave having witnessed a truly remarkable theatrical feat.

Admittedly, this is the first time I have seen Scott live on stage, despite the many credits to his CV, most recently Present Laughter at the Old Vic and Hamlet at the Almeida Theatre and in the West End. I did have the pleasure of watching his Three Kings, a one-man play presented by the Old Vic during lockdown in 2020. That was the first piece of pandemic theatre I watched, and Scott’s emotional and vibrant performance stayed with me as a lifeline to the performing arts when so much about our world felt hopeless and uncertain.

Now, watching Scott showcase his talent onstage in a performance that runs the gamut from humour to emotion to sensuality felt healing and full-circle. He plays every single character from the Chekhov epic, and the slight switch of a prop – from a tennis ball to a dish towel to a pair of sunglasses – indicates which character he’s now taking on, so you never lose the thread.

Scott enters a sparse stage as if he’s a man returning home to an empty house. He turns off the house lights and turns the stage ones on, makes a cup of tea, and settles in, as anyone might at the end of their day. As the play goes on, he slowly descends into what could be conceived as a psychotic break. First, he takes on the character of the doctor, who has come to check on the family, and slowly morphs into each character like he’s adding personalities to a roster. What results is someone who is equally in complete control and on the verge of a breakdown.

The characters in Uncle Vanya are all on the verge of breakdown to varying degrees, as they are grappling with unrequited love as well as the fact that their family home might go up for sale. Scott’s acting gymnastics flipping between characters reaches a fast clip as the play goes on, mirroring their journey unraveling.

But don’t worry, there are still quiet, poetic moments of stillness amid the frenzy, where Scott carves out a moment to deliver some of Chekhov’s most beautiful meditations on life. You won’t find a more remarkable actor doing a more remarkable piece of theatre anywhere in the West End. Whether you’ve never heard of Scott or Vanya or you’re a fan of his screen work, this production will stick with you for a lifetime.

Vanya is at the Duke of York’s Theatre through 21 October.

Originally published on

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