30 May 2005

Synge and Chekhov



John Millington Synge, author of The Playboy of the Western World, Riders To The Sea, and other fine plays. He died of Hodgkin's Disease in 1909, poor fellow, aged just 37. I had the same illness eighty years later, by which time a cure was available.



I love this picture of Anton and Olga Chekhov. (found it here)

Saturday last I had the honour of attending works by the above geniuses of early twentieth century theatre. The triple bill of Synge one-acts at Southwark in the afternoon, and in the eve the Maly Theatre of St.Petersburg in Uncle Vanya at the Barbican. My friend Svetlana had tickets but couldn't make it - she'd got her dates mixed up so was in fact in the air, on her way back from Moscow, when she was meant to be taking her teenage son Sergei (aka Zig) to see her compatriots give their finely paced, emotionally brilliant version of the play. So I got to go instead. Zig really loved it, he laughed at the comedy-of-embarrassment bits but also said after he thought it was romantic, and he felt just as sorry for the professor as he did for Vanya. He's being brung up well, that boy.
The Barbican audience, by the way, gave a most un-English standing ovation. True, there were a fair few Russians in the audience, come to hear their great dramatist in their mother tongue. But I felt the majority were simply responding to the intensity of the performance. There have been sceptical notes sounded in the things I've read and heard, but Lev Dodin's company really did hit some heights in the show I saw, and the reception, though extreme, was not entirely unjustified.

I loved Riders To The Sea all over again, though the actors seemed a little unfocused. George Innes was sensational, though, in the second play, The Shadow of the Glen, as a cuckold taking his revenge on his young wife (very nicely played by Alisa Arnah).

I'm so enjoying this seeing-everything-I-can business. Seen more plays in the last three months than the previous three years. I know it's a drag on my writing momentum but to be frank, I'd really had my fill of solitude, and for the present I need society, and communal stories.
Which said, I'll be showing up to the page now.

(Still cold-y, would you believe.)

2 comments:

Ova Girl said...

Yes, yay hooray for seeing loads of stuff and toning up the creative muscles. Been doing a bit myself and alternatively inspired and bored.The Chekov sounds fantastic.

And yay and hooray for the eighty years too sbs.

sbs said...

sometimes the boredom is useful too, i think. on a crass level, if we never go out we tend to assume everybody else's work going on out there must be way better than ours... a slightly more civilised point, if the work is off-colour it's a chance to think about the whys and hows, the mechanics of performance, all that.

thanks for the ps. - thank god for chemo cocktails.