Exploring the greatest new and classic plays

SUPPORT OUR PODCAST BY BECOMING A PATRON
CLICK HERE

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.

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.

Patreon Page

BECOME A PATRON!

Since I launched The Play Podcast in April 2020, I have managed to eschew any form of advertising or sponsorship, and I would like to continue to produce the podcast without doing so. I therefore invite you to help me to continue to make the podcast by becoming a Patron.
Additional benefits available to Patrons include Footnotes on the plays covered in the podcast, as well as exclusive access to The Play Review.

For details click here

Thank you very much for listening and for your support.
Douglas

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.

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

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You might also be interested in …

079 – The Hills of California, by Jez Butterworth

079 – The Hills of California, by Jez Butterworth

A new Jez Butterworth play is a theatrical event. The Hills of California is currently running at the Harold Pinter theare in London’s West End, directed by Sam Mendes. Do not be misled by the title, however, we are not in sunny California, but in the back streets of Blackpool, where four daughters come together to say goodbye to their dying mother. The play is a portrait of lost dreams, of deeply ingrained patterns of love and hurt within a family, and of suppressed and mutable memories.

I’m joined to explore this major new work by Sean McEvoy, author of Class, Culture and Tragedy in the Plays of Jez Butterworth.

078 – The Lover and The Collection, by Harold Pinter

078 – The Lover and The Collection, by Harold Pinter

We have a double-bill in this episode of two short plays written by Harold Pinter in the early 1960s: The Lover and The Collection, both of which explore sexual compulsion and the manipulation of truth within marriage or partnerships. As we record this episode a new production of both plays is playing at the Theatre Royal in Bath, directed by Lindsay Posner.

I’m delighted to welcome Lindsay back to the podcast to talk about these two Pinter gems.

Claudie Blakley and David Morrissey in The Lover
Photo by Nobby Clark

077 – An Enemy of the People, by Henrik Ibsen

077 – An Enemy of the People, by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People is a fable of truth and lies, politics and power, and the challenge and costs of pursuing an unpopular crusade to speak truth to power. It’s a story of ‘fake news’, manipulation of the media, the dangers of populism, and the environmental cost of capitalism. No wonder it strikes a chord in our time, for as we record this episode there are two major new productions of An Enemy of the People on the world stage.

I’m delighted to welcome back to the podcast, Ibsen expert, Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, who I was privileged to talk with in episode 74 on Ibsen’s play Ghosts

Matt Smith as Thomas Stockmann
Duke of York’s Theatre, London
Photo by Manuel Harlan