Show notes

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 Hern

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.

Visit Nick Hern Books here

Recommended Play

Nick recommended any play by Caryl Churchill!
He also recommended Shook by Samuel Bailey – see episode 22.

The Texts

If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. You will also be supporting an independent bookseller. Thank you.

Photo © Marc Brenner

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.

2 Comments

  1. David

    In discussing the designation of The Cherry Orchard as “a comedy” the guest says “No one dies.” But in my understanding of the play Firs dies… I think understanding Chekhov’s “comedy” must include an acknowledgement of Death.

    Reply
    • Elmera Goldberg

      Thanks, David. Also, since when does a comedy mean “No one dies.” To my mind, that’s a very limited, and limiting definition. Comedy, like tragedy, is not a one-note samba.

      Reply

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