NEWS: Chekhov’s First Play @ Northern Stage | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Russian playwright Anton Chekhov produced four great plays, but his first play is not one of them. When Soviet scholars discovered this play in 1921 in a safety deposit box in Moscow, stashed away by Chekhov’s sister during the Russian Revolution, it had no title page, too many characters, too many themes and too much action.

Deemed unstageable – just like life – Dead Centre’s Artistic Directors Ben Kidd and Bush Moukarzel took it on, and they’ll bring their production to Northern Stage from Thursday 25th-Saturday 27th April.

There is little that remains of 18-year-old Chekhov’s original first play in this weirdly playful production. Dead Centre took a wrecking ball to Chekhov’s work, both in the adaptation and literally on stage. What does remain is Chekhov’s preoccupation with the elusiveness of absolute meaning in the theatre.

The show opens with the actual director, Bush Moukarzel, warning the audience about the quality of the original play. The ever-present director then whispers an ongoing anxious commentary of the unravelling action and characters into the audience’s headphones. As the carefully constructed summerhouse begins to fall apart, so does the play. The lines between past and present, actors and audience, play and reality become blurred as contemporary life seeps onto the stage.

It’s perhaps up to the audience to decide if defining modernist Anton Chekhov were here now with the range of technology and artistic device available to Dead Centre, is this the radical, unsettling, chaotic play he would have created?

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