Chekhov in Hell
- Written by: Dan Rebellato
- Directed by: Eleanor Bishop
- Circa Two
- 12 May − 09 June
If Chekhov were alive today...
Anton Chekhov, playwright, author and pitiless observer of Russian society, awakes from a hundred-year coma and finds himself in twenty-first century London.
Bewildered and fascinated he takes a whirlwind tour of Britain from reality TV, smartphones, feng shui and sex trafficking to celebrity chefs, MTV Cribs, pole dancing and Twitter.
“I've read many new plays reflecting on the modern world, but nothing captured the humour and the tragedy like Chekhov in Hell, which seems completely appropriate since since Chekhov was the master of the tragi-comedy.” Says Director Eleanor Bishop. “Chekhov in Hell is by turns hilarious, fun and moving. I was drawn to the way it weaved a historical theatrical figure and all those associations into a biting satire of our world today.“
Featuring stunning design from Alice Hill (Tinderbox), daring projection (Andrew Simpson) and a fully-fledged original dance pop soundtrack by Chapman Tripp nominee Gareth Hobbs, Chekhov in Hell is a fast paced, funny, seriously fun night out!
Come view our world through the eyes of a literary master – the good, the bad and the ugly.
"A freewheeling yet pointed spin on the many ills, rampant absurdity and eroded values of modern life... Fast, funny, somethimes achingly hip" - The Times
R16 - Contains strong language
Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes (no interval)
Read an exchange - with dramatic results! - between Chekhov in Hell cast members Victoria Abbott and Simon Leary on Circa's blog, drama on the waterfront. Or find out about the play from those in the know - playwright Dan Rebellato and director Eleanor Bishop - in another post on drama on the waterfront.
Cast and crew
Seniors (65+) /Students/Beneficiaries $38
Friends of Circa (until 24 May) $33
Groups 6+ $39
Groups 20+ $36
Under 25 $25
A Delightful Satirical Narrative
Reviewed By David Farrar, Kiwiblog, 13 May 2012
Chekov in Hell opens in Circa Two with Anton Chekov in a hospital bed, clearly dying in 1904. A short time later, it is 2012 and a (great) niece of Chekov is informed that her uncle has woken up from a 100 year coma.
Victoria Abbott, as the niece Nicola, gave what I thought was a stunning performance. Her ability to do different accents was phenomenal, and she got the mannerisms spot on. She also has one of the most expressive faces I’ve seen, and could have you in stitches just by the way she pinched her eyes and lips together as the politically correct police officer was reassuring her that they are here to make her feel valued, as they update on the hunt for her uncle.
I did not expect the play to be laugh out loud funny, as it was. I thought it would be more quiet chuckle funny, but there were numerous scenes that had the audience loudly laughing. An example was the poor doctor trying to apologise for letting Chekov escape the hospital, while stressing it was not an official apology as that could open the hospital up to liability, but a non-official personal expression of regrets.
The play was written by Dan Reballato, an English playwright. It shows how Chekov experiences reality TV, feng shui, pole dancing, a Russian gangster, smartphones, sex trafficking, celebrity chefs, British policing and very amusingly Twitter. The characters are all English (or Russian) but they need no translation for a New Zealand audience.
Director Eleanor Bishop did an excellent job bringing the script to life. It was a very energetic production as characters do not just fade on and off stage, but almost pivot their way off, taking furniture with them. It is at times a very intense experience with the music and lights combining so that you almost share Chekov’s disorientation.
The cast of five all play around 11 characters each (except for the Chekov actor), which must be a huge challenge. This was I think Abbott’s first production at Circa (she only graduated in 2011), but equally worthy of mention was fellow “newbie” Simon Leary who acted with frenetic energy. Both of them are real talents, with a huge future I predict.
Nick Dunbar and Heather O’Connell also played multiple characters with ease, while Jason Whyte was convincing playing Chekov himself – and very much looked the part.
There were a couple of scenes which dragged on a bit for me, and could have been made tighter. But overall I found it a delightful satirical narrative about 21st century London. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by John Smythe, Theatreview, 13 May 2012