Anton Chekhov

Uncle Vanya

Chamber Theatre, Voronezh
Presented in the frame of Russian Case
Director: Mikhail Bychkov
Age category 16+

Chekhov’s play, which has no sell-by date despite many interpretations in different times, is transposed by Mikhail Bychkov, a master of psychological theatre and laconic forms, into the retro-setting of the 1970s. The stage presents an unfinished dacha of freshly made boards, a vintage gramophone on legs that produces sounds of Soviet songs, and Elena Andreevna with a hairdo à la Babette and wearing a mink coat. Chekhov’s heroes suffer from the meaninglessness of their existence and broken communication; they are partly on earth and partly in the clouds. Their motifs are transparent, sometimes comic, and sometimes tragic; their relations are complicated and abundantly clear at the same time. In a word, everything is as Chekhov has it, but maybe a little more straightforward. The singularity of the production of the Chamber Theatre, one of the best Russian theatres, consists in the context in which Chekhov’s play is placed: the Soviet life-style, corroding everything around, resonates in intrusive songs and manifests itself in everyday objects, in the wooden deer that ironically alienate the «dacha’s cosiness», and the air itself. It is from this Soviet style that Doctor Astrov and Uncle Vanya, the luckless Nietzsche, try to escape. Today, against the background of a pseudo-patriotic mood, this irony and horror before the Soviet past sounds particularly sharp – Mikhail Bychkov condemns the Soviet past, as much as Chekhov abhorred vulgarity.

Alyona Karas