Uncle Vanya 2009

Uncle Vanya - photo credit Daily Mail

By Anton Chekhov - Translated by Stephen Mulrine

A Co-production with Bristol Old Vic in the Theatre Royal, 30th Oct - 21st November 2009. The production was then revived for a sell-out week at the 2010 Galway Festival. In Bristol the Theatre Royal stage was extended forward in front of the 'stage boxes' as part of a rediscovery of its original eighteenth century form and practice.

Director's Note

I became familiar with the Theatre Royal stage as an actor in the late '70s. The sense of being embraced by the famous ‘horseshoe’ shape of the auditorium is intense, all the more so when a play reaches out to the audience, recognising its presence rather than allowing a ‘fourth wall’ to deny that a crowd is gathered around the stage to share the actors’ story. Chekhov is famed as a realist, but for all that he upset the theatrical conventions of his day - denying his audience the over-simplified portraits of human character, emotion and fate expressed by sentimental tragedy on the one hand, or farce on the other - it would be wrong to infer from this that he shied away from all forms of theatrical gesture, or from any acknowledgement between actor and audience. Characters in Uncle Vanya address the audience directly - confess their secrets to them, share their anger or frustration - as boldly as a Hamlet or King Richard III in plays written 300 years earlier. This is a play for the stage, by a master of subtle stagecraft. I am absolutely thrilled that, for my own company’s first ever co-production with another company, we have been invited to work in this theatre and on this stage and that we can be part of a process of rediscovering the Royal’s dynamics, prior to the refurbishment that will define its character and use for many years to come. 
Andrew Hilton

Reviews

Photo by Graham Burke"This truly is the most wonderful production: a Chekhov that shows — as it must — the sorrows of wasted and wasteful lives but is performed by its exemplary cast to indicate also, as Chekhov wanted, the farcical comedy of those lives. Never before have I laughed so heartily at the third act of this play where Vanya shoots at his hated brother-in-law and misses, twice; where the other members of the family shriek, cower, sob, pray to God, wave pamphlets or offer the comfort of limeflower tea. It’s extraordinary. We sorrow for them. We roar with laughter. "
Jeremy Kingston, THE TIMES

Photo by Graham Burke"This production is so fresh, so painful, so funny and so alive, that all the stage magic came flooding back. Hilton’s production, with its minimal design and excellent though unstarry cast, is manifestly intent on serving the play rather than his own ego. There is an extraordinary directness and transparency about the performances and a superb alertness to the play’s constantly shifting moods, in which dark emotional weather is suddenly pierced by shafts of sunlight and laughter."
Charles Spencer, THE TELEGRAPH

 

“Chekhov's comedy Uncle Vanya proves that boredom has never been so riveting…Chekhov doesn't get much better than this”
Patrick Marmion, THE DAILY MAIL

"Andrew Hilton, who has kept the beacon alive in Bristol with forensically clear, pinpoint sharp Shakespeare productions, has put on a production of Uncle Vanya which is very extraordinary."
Susannah Clapp, BBC RADIO 3

Photo by Graham Burke“The spectacle is simultaneously hilarious and pitiful. Boredom, loss, waste and wretchedness are seldom so eloquent and absorbing.”
Georgina Brown, THE MAIL ON SUNDAY

"...the enviable reputation that SATTF has painstakingly built for its intimate, audience-friendly approach to the classics...SATTF artistic director Andrew Hilton has gathered some familiar Tobacco Factory faces around him and although he has a larger canvas than usual on which to etch Chekhov’s themes of deep felt unhappiness and illusions being shattered, he does not sacrifice his intimate chamber style one iota. Simon Armstrong and Daisy Douglas skilfully capture the emotional ache at the centre of the two principal characters - the melancholy yet volatile Vanya and his equally lovelorn niece Sonya.
Jeremy Brien, THE STAGE 

Photo by Graham Burke “Andrew Hilton's revival in Stephen Mulrine's dry-as-a-martini translation feels like 19th-century Russian Beckett ... it has all Hilton's hallmarks of simplicity and clarity, and sits beautifully on the Old Vic stage”
Lyn Gardner, THE GUARDIAN

“The keynote in Andrew Hilton's incisive production of Uncle Vanya is anger…This must be one of the most confrontational Chekhov productions ever staged.”
Susannah Clapp, THE OBSERVER

Photo by Graham Burke"Director Andrew Hilton gets the rythmn of the speech and the pauses just right, and the tension between pathos and comedy is nearly always spot on. The best performance comes from Daisy Douglas who plays Sonya with a despairing courage. What a joy to see classic theatre back in the old auditorium."
Helen Reid, EVENING POST

"Stephen Mulrine's limpid new version is unswervingly faithful to the play, but told in a distinctly English voice where tragedy is wrapped - but not lost - in cooling ironies" Peter Crawley, THE IRISH TIMES

"Simon Armstrong’s Vanya is a truly tragicomic figure, all spluttering outrage and futile gestures – his bungled entrance with a tatty bouquet of roses for love object Yelena sends a palpable squirm through the audience. And though Alys Thomas’ Yelena has a cool elegance that is at odds with her much-vaunted langour, she paces the confines of this trophy-wife’s cage convincingly. Despite Vanya’s entertaining bluster and hotheadedness, it is the well-measured performance of Paul Currier as Dr Astrov and his scenes with Yelena and Sonya – very finely played by Daisy Douglas – that feel central and tinge the laughter with heartbreakThe sense of loss and missed opportunity that hovers over the quiet industry of the closing scene is pure magic. "
Rina Vergano, VENUE

“It’s wonderful to be collaborating with such a respected company...I have long admired the intimate, honest, crystal-clear storytelling style of Andrew Hilton’s productions for Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory...we are delighted to invite him to join in the exploration of this theatre.
Bristol Old Vic’s Artistic Director, Tom Morris

All photographs copyright Graham Burke 

CAST

Serebryakov  Ian Barritt
Yelena  Alys Thomas
Sonya  Daisy Douglas
Maria Vasilievna  Avril Elgar
Vanya  Simon Armstrong
Astrov  Paul Currier
Telegin  David Plimmer
Marina  Jacqueline Tong
Workman  Dan Winter

In Galway, Maria Vasilievna was played by Bonnie Hurren, and Marina by Francesca Ryan.

PRODUCTION

Director  Andrew Hilton
Set & Costume Designer  Harriet de Winton
Costume Supervisor  Jennie Falconer
Lighting Designers  Tim Streader & Tom Richmond
Sound Designer  Dan Jones
Assistant Director  Saskia Portway
Literary Adviser  Edward Braun

Production Manager  Chris Bagust
Stage Managers  Kellie Clare & Polly Meech
Deputy Stage Managers  Eleanor Dixon & Diana Favell
Assistant Stage Managers Polly Meech & Andy Guard
Programme Designer  Alan Coveney
Production Photographer  Graham Burke