Inside Culture #23 (Special on the life and work of the Russian author Anton Chekhov)

This week Inside Culture looks at the life and work of the Russian author Anton Chekhov.

Fionn Davenport is joined in studio by the artistic directors of Corn Exchange Theatre, Annie Ryan and Michael West, who are staging a new production of Chekhov’s play The Seagull for the Dublin Theatre Festival in October. Also in studio is actor Derbhle Crotty who plays the role of Arkadina in that play.

They discuss The Seagull beginning with its disastrous opening night in 1896. Stanislavsky at the Moscow Art Theatre, realising the revolutionary, natural style of Chekhov’s writing staged it in 1898 and from that day this modern classic has been one of the giants of the stage.

The panel talk about their own version of the play – including their decision to cast the role of Konstantin as a woman’s part. They talk about Chekhov’s other works for theatre and discuss Stanislavsky’s Method.

We also hear short scenes from Corn Exhange’s version, recorded at rehearsals.

In addition to our panel in studio, we look at other interpretations of Chekhov’s play. Thomas Kilroy’s 1981 version of The Seagull is a seminal work in modern Irish theatre which moved the setting from 19th century Russia to Ireland at the time of the land wars. He tells Zoe Comyns about why this worked and recalls a visit to Chekhov’s house and garden in Yalta with the playwright Brian Friel.

Belfast writer Lucy Caldwell tells us why she her translation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters has moved to 1990’s Belfast and how the Belfast voice works so well with certain aspects of the original Russian.

Dr. Rosamund Bartlett has written a biography of Chekhov and she joins Fionn to talk about Chekhov’s early life, his character and his love of gardening. We also hear from her about the writer’s death in Germany in 1904 and how his body was transported back to Russia in a train carriage marked ‘Fresh Oysters’.

Regan Hutchins delves into Chekhov’s short stories with the help of author Deirdre Madden who teaches creative writing at Trinity College Dublin and with Dr Justin Doherty who is the head of Russian and Slavonic Studies there.

We end the show with a collage of Russian voices produced by Charles Maynes who lives in Moscow. What does Chekhov mean to his own country-folk in the twenty-first century?

Throughout the show we hear readings by The Seagull’s cast members, Derbhle Crotty and Louis Lovett.

Broadcast on 26 September 2016