002 – Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov
To coincide with Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s new adaptation of the Chekhov classic, and its West End run, we talk with his publisher Nick Hern. When in 1889 Chekhov presented the first version of the play that would eventually become Uncle Vanya it was a devastating failure. The playwright withdrew the play and didn’t write another play for five years. Yet the four great plays that followed sealed Chekhov’s reputation as one of the fathers of modern drama. What was different about his plays that changed the way we view theatre? Why are they billed as “comedies” when the characters are so unrelentingly unhappy? How are his portraits of the idle Russian aristocracy at the turn of the 20th century still relevant today? Nick and I try to answer these questions, and share our love of Uncle Vanya and Chekhov.
Nick is the founder of Nick Hern Books, the play publishers who have led the UK in championing the best new playwrights for the past 30 years. His catalogue includes many of our leading contemporary playwrights, from Howard Brenton, Mike Bartlett, and Jez Butterworth to Caryl Churchill, Lucy Kirkwood and Phoebe Waller-Bridge to name but a very few.
I am delighted to welcome him to The Play Podcast to talk about Conor McPherson’s new adaptation of Uncle Vanya, which he publishes of course, along with Conor’s other plays.
Nick recommended any play by Caryl Churchill!
He also recommended Shook by Samuel Bailey – see episode 22.
We have footnotes for this episode …
The Footnotes to our episode about Uncle Vanya include observations on Chekhov as comedy, his prescient concern for the environment, Sonya’s unrequited love, Chekhov and Stanislavski, his minor characters and finally his lasting influence.
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