When the 1917 Russian revolution broke out in Moscow, Anton Chekov’s sister Maria hid many of her late brother’s unpublished manuscripts in a safety deposit box. It remained buried until 1921, when Soviet scholars discovered the box and examined its contents. Chekov’s earliest work, written when he was just eighteen, was lacking a title page, had an enormous cast, and ran for six hours. As such, it was dismissed as unstageable and never performed.
The plot centres around a group of friends who congregate for an idle, philosophical debate about the modern world. Dead Centre have used the original text as a starting point, deconstructing and reframing its myriad of themes and characters. Stage action and dialogue are overlaid with commentary from the play's director, Bush Moukarzel, which is delivered to the audience via headphones. Watching from the wings, he assesses the quality of the acting, gossips about cast members and explains Chekov’s metaphors. As the main character fails to materialise, the director’s commentary grows increasingly fraught – and the narrative begins to unravel.
Chekov’s First Play was commissioned by the Battersea Arts Centre back in 2015, just before the Grand Hall was devastated by fire. This Autumn, it makes its belated London debut as part of the Phoenix Season, a five-month celebration of ‘risk-taking and renewal’ to mark the reopening of the Grand Hall. Other program highlights include Byrony Kimmings’ I’m a Phoenix, Bitch and Lekan Lawal’s SUPERBLACKMAN.
As the Battersea Arts Centre rises from the ashes, Chekov’s First Play is not one to miss.
|What||Chekov's First Play, Battersea Arts Centre|
|Where||Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, London, SW11 5TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Clapham Common (underground)|
31 Oct 18 – 10 Nov 18, 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM
|Price||£15 - £25|
|Website||Click here to book|