CHEKHOV IN HELL
The thing people don’t get is that everything is new, the past is dead, nothing is real, everything’s good, nothing lasts, it’s all changing, there’s no up, there’s no down, no one’s rich, no one’s poor, nothing is better than anything else, yeah?
Everybody thought that Chekhov died in Badenweiler in 1904. In fact he slipped into a coma and was transported out of Russia during the Revolution, ending up in Britain in the Second World War. When he awakes from his coma in the twenty-first century, he discharges himself from hospital, is arrested as an illegal immigrant, and escapes from prison. With the police, the hospital services, and his last surviving relative on his heels, he engages in a search to discover what made the world the way it is and why so many want to step through and escape.
Chekhov in Hell opened at the Drum Theatre, Plymouth in November 2010, directed by Simon Stokes. It starred Simon Gregor as Chekhov, with Jonathan Broadbent, Ruth Everett, Geoffrey Lumb, Emily Raymond, and Paul Rider. Bob Bailey and Lorna Price designed set and costume. Bruno Poet lighting.
The play was pretty well reviewed. Four stars from Lyn Gardner in the Guardian. A good review in Whatsonstage.com. Nice student review on the Theatre Royal’s website. Less acclaim from someone in the Telegraph. I wrote an article about rewriting Chekhov for the Guardian’s stage blog. Aleks Sierz interviewed me for TheatreVOICE and you can hear that here. Adam Rush used it to frame his discussion of Chekhov's relationship with the future in an essay to a company Headlong's 2013 production of The Seagull.
A new production of the play was mounted at Circa Theatre in Wellington in May 2012. The cast were Jason Whyte, Heather O’Carroll, Nick Dunbar, Victoria Abbott, Simon Leary. It was directed by the wonderful Eleanor Bishop. The play has also been performed by East 15 Acting School, Stratford College, and various schools and sixth-form colleges. You can see some clips and photographs of other productions at the bottom of this page.
If you are putting on Chekhov in Hell, you'll notice that there's a certain amount of Russian in the play. You'll find the following clips useful; they are noted director and Russian expert Noah Birksted-Breen, the advisor to the first production, showing how the Russian should sound. There are individual files for each scene with Russian in and the first and last scenes, which have longer Russian, have useful clips of the lines spoken slowly and normal speed.