Anton Chekhov's UNCLE VANYA Returns to The Court Theatre
One hundred and twenty years after it was first published, Anton Chekhov's celebrated masterpiece Uncle Vanya makes its way back onto The Court Theatre's stage.
Annie Baker's critically-acclaimed revitalisation of this theatrical classic brings the play into the 21st century while retaining the timelessness of Chekhov's wit, insight and emotional depth.
For years, Vanya and his niece Sonya have laboured on their family's country estate in relative harmony. But when Sonya's father returns from the big city with a glamourous new bride, unfulfilled desires and fierce family loyalties collide to destroy the status quo. This bittersweet exploration of love, hope and longing is heartbreakingly human, achingly poignant and laced with irony.
Director Shane Bosher is looking forward to making his directorial debut at The Court with this classic piece. "I've had Uncle Vanya sitting in pride of place at the top of my bucket list of 'must direct work' for several years now."
Four times named The Listener's "Director of the year", Bosher has an impressive resume of work, including a celebrated tenure as Artistic Director of Auckland's Silo Theatre (2001-2014). Known for bold interpretations of classic work, Bosher is excited to turn his talents to Uncle Vanya.
"Chekhov was a radical," says Bosher. "Like his own Konstantin in The Seagull, he invented a new form of theatre - changing the way that audiences approach and experience drama."
For Bosher, Uncle Vanya is full of "poetic realism" - investigating the epic moments in people's very small domestic lives. "The production will walk a tightrope between the possibility that nothing might happen and the threat that something could. This is a play about people who have clung to their habits and delusions and are forced to confront a reality which contradicts them. Just like us and just like real-life."
Bosher embraces the idea that "farce is natural to life. Audiences will be able to identify themselves and people they interact with in their own lives through the characters in this play. They are brothers, lovers, mothers, nieces; the annoying and glorious people we work and live with every day."
To achieve his vision, The Court has assembled a stellar cast, with Stephen Lovatt taking on the titular role. Lovatt has been seen on New Zealand television screens in Neighbours; Spartacus; Go Girls; Top of the Lake; Hope and Wire; Hillary, and most recently on the international cult TV show Ash vs Evil Dead.
"This is the sixth time I've collaborated with Stephen. Over the last ten years, I've had the privilege of directing him in productions of When the Rain Stops Falling; Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing; Speaking in Tongues; The Only Child and Angels in America."
Joining Lovatt on the stage is an impressive line-up of acclaimed actors - some already beloved by Christchurch audiences, others making their Court debut. Geoffrey Heath (The Streaker) is the hypochondriac Professor, while Esther Stephens, returning after her stand-out role as Kate Sheppard in That Bloody Woman, plays the Professor's bewitching new bride Yelena. Making their Court debuts are Sophie Hambleton (seen on TV's Westside) as the professor's daughter Sonya; and Edwin Wright (most recently on-screen in the Sundance World Cinema Grand Jury prize-winning film Slow West) as the local doctor Astrov. Rounding out the cast and returning to The Shed are Yvonne Martin (Winston's Birthday), who played Marina in The Court's last production of Uncle Vanya in 1991, will take on the role of Maria Vasilyevna; Darien Takle (The Women) as Marina; Gregory Cooper (Niu Sila) as Telegin and Jared Corbin (A Christmas Carol) as Yefim.
While a great deal of the poetic realism Bosher is drawing on can be found in the script, the rest must be incorporated into the design. Set designer Rachael Walker, costume designer Elizabeth Whiting, lighting designer Giles Tanner and sound designer Sean Hawkins will join their talents to place audiences firmly inside Vanya's world.
"The designers are cultivating a set which works in the same way Shakespeare's stage did; it's a psychological space, which riffs on and references the large land-based sculptures of Richard Serra. The production will have a sense of timelessness," Bosher says.
Bosher wants the production to be alive with contradiction and encapsulate the big, obsessive, beating Russian heart that is found throughout Chekhov's script. "The Russians take on boredom in that it creates a visceral restlessness and makes people behave in extraordinary ways."
These extraordinary ways will be sure to draw audiences into the story, entertain them, excite them, shock them and finally move them to silence.
Don't miss Uncle Vanya when it opens at The Court Theatre on 13 May.
Vanya Stephen Lovatt
Yelena Esther Stephens
Maria Vasilyevna Yvonne Martin
Sonya Sophie Hambleton
Marina Darien Takle
Serebryakov Geoffrey Heath
Astrov Edwin Wright
Yefim Jared Corbin
Telegin Greg Cooper
Director Shane Bosher
Set Designer Rachael Walker
Costume Designer Elizabeth Whiting
Lighting Designer Giles Tanner
Sound Designer Sean Hawkins
· Adult: $53-$58
· Under 25: $46-$51
· Child (under 18): $24-$29
· Under 25: $34-$39
· Senior 65yrs+: $46-$51
· Group 20+: $46-$51
· Supporter: $44-$49
Bookings: phone 03 963 0870 or visit www.courttheatre.org.nz
6.30pm: Forum Monday 15th May
2.00pm: Matinee Saturday 27th May