Author: Beryl Nairn

09 Mar “Uncle Vanya” Winds Down

YSP are in our last few performances of “Uncle Vanya”. You only have tonight (Friday), the Saturday matinee and the Saturday evening to catch the show, if you haven’t seen it yet. You can get your tickets here on the York Theatre Royal website.

To celebrate our last few shows, we wanted to share with you some of the lovely poetry that Glyn Morrow (Telegin) has written, inspired by Chekov’s masterpiece.

TO CHEKHOV

“No philosophies, please.”

No, nor vapid pieties,
Listen how quiet is
The question, answers inaudible.

Love and laughter? Laudable!
But hear too: massive murmur of trees,
A breaking string, the cry on a chill breeze . . .

But please, no philosophies.

G.M. {22.1.18}
_______________________________________________________

TELEGIN’S LAMENT ~

I remember a time
long ago
when I had no cause to scan
swaying fields of windblown wheat
to find horizons ~
they were within me then

A girl came calling
with what I took for love
in her piercing glance ~
I suppose we danced ~
I followed as she led . . .
She left
and I swallowed more than pride

Now nestled into my days
I blink and wince at slights
and am gently cared for
in a house not my own

though now when I pause
in the still-swaying fields
since my own are so hemmed
I search out horizons
with my watery eyes
my unflinching heart

{G.M. ~ 14.2.18}

_______________________________________________________

GONE {a Vanya poem}

Blessed rains, racing clouds
They’ve gone

Summer’s heat-haze, her indolent eyes
They’ve gone

New scents in stale air
They’ve gone

Wild overtures, bleeding roses
They’ve gone

Choked cries, loud reports
They’ve gone

Heart-flutter, birdsong
They’ve gone

Restless nights climbing the moon
They’ve gone

Mocking harness-bells, fading hoofbeats
They’ve gone

The spark in your eyes
The flames in our eyes
They’ve gone, Sonya
They’ve gone

My dreams, breath of hope . . .

They’ve gone

{G.M. 18.2.18}
___________________________________________________

SONG OF THE SAMOVAR ~ a Chekhovian fantasy

Here I squat
inert on silver haunches
seeing all, keeping mum ~ 
keeping nanna too.

And now he lopes toward me
{doesn’t matter who, they all want tea}
with his parlance
and his interminable aunts

I sweat for him
while he stays callously cool,
I pour, I simmer, I hold my tongue
as he holds forth, fifth and sixth

I’ll get into hot water
if I go on like this
but oh, to hell with it!

Here she comes, the pious one,
{no more pious
than the back of my arse}
spouting homilies
while I spout puffs and bubbles
she barely notices

Oh, dear God!
On minces “guitar man”
soon to pluck away ~ in lieu of luck I’d say,
recalling past pathos
I can only hear as bathos

Yes ~ da! ~ I’m the cynic
in this claustrophobic clinic
for the comically insane
~ and I’ve no brain!

So I’d better hold my tongue
before old and young,
merely splutter and pour ~

It’s all I’m good for.

But, like cockroach and crow
I’ll be here
after you go

to Kharkhov, Moscow . . .

{G.M. ~ 21.2.18}

____________________________________________________

A LAMENT FOR VANYA

In a delirium of loss
he peers into the pitiless well
of his own longing

The figures who shift like mirages
around him drift and dream
of marriage, Africa, flight . . .

He ran out of dreams
as they ran out of him,
taken fright ~ gone
to occupy a soul less
bereft

Slowly, achingly slowly
the well-water will rise
and he’ll see his face
once more reflected there

{G.M. ~ 8.3.18}

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27 Feb 5 Minutes with Martha Owen (Sonya in “Uncle Vanya”)

So you’ve done “Three Sisters” before so you’re quite familiar with Chekhov, could you pick a favourite Chekhov play? 

Martha: It’s probably a split between “Uncle Vanya” and “Three Sisters”. Obviously, they are all fantastic, but I’ve only ever approached it as an actor, and the roles for women in “Three Sisters” and “Uncle Vanya” are extraordinary. I don’t know how to explain it. They’re not all very nice people, and I think that that’s what so interesting about them, because they are not idealised women. But they are not kind of evil. (“Evil Stepmother”). There’s a really interesting rounded female character that he writes so well that you don’t really find in modern drama, in contemporary drama. So a split between those two.

What do you find most difficult about playing Sonya?

Martha: All of it. She makes a lot of eye contact. She’s staring at people all the time and I’ve sort of taught myself not to do that. Because when you’re a child everyone’s like “don’t do that”. So sometimes I have to force myself to stare at people more than is polite and that’s been quite tricky. But also she’s quite a strange person because she’s grown up in quite a lot of isolation; she’s around her family, but she’s obviously not around anyone her own age and she hasn’t really learned how to behave properly or politely like Yelena and Serebryakov do. They’re the city mice and she’s a country mouse. So she doesn’t have any kind of smoothness and working out what it would be like to grow up working on a farm with no one your own age and then suddenly be confronted with people who are glamorous and charming- that’s quite a challenge.

If you could pick one scene in particular that you think is the most interesting to do as Sonya- that you look forward to every time- which one would it be? 

Martha: I look forward to the drinking scene (it’s not really a drinking scene), to when Yelena and her make up and they have a kind of 19th century girls night sleepover. They drink wine together and this childish side comes out of her. It’s so cool because it’s a scene between two women for really quite an extended period of time and they’ve each got such a different story going on which the audience see immediately but they have no idea it’s about the same person and there really is two conversations going on at once but neither of them quite make as much of a connection as they think they are making. I just think it’s fantastic and it’s lovely doing a scene with another actress.

If you had to pick your favourite character in “Uncle Vanya” who would it be and why? 

Martha: I’m not sure if it’s just because Glyn is doing it, but I think it’s Telegin. He’s got it all. He’s absolutely hilarious and he makes me cackle. But there’s a real, real vein of tragedy running through his character that you can’t help but laugh at because you feel like if you don’t laugh then you’ll cry. He’s wonderful and I love that he’s this kind of satellite around the family. He’s not actually in it but he’s there all the time. What a comic creation.

Come see Martha in ‘Uncle Vanya’ at the York Theatre Royal. The show opens tomorrow, 28th of February, 2018. You can book your tickets here.

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20 Feb The Professor reflects on Chekhov

Today we have Tony Froud bringing you his thoughts on Chekhov. Tony is playing Serebryakov, the professor in “Uncle Vanya”.

___________________________________________________________________

“It’s not gloomy.  It’s profound”.  Henrik, in A Little Night Music.  Stephen Sondheim.

To my shame and, the more I read, to my growing regret, this is my first experience of Chekhov for
over forty years.  As an English Literature student in the 1970’s, my acquaintance was brief.  I saw a
very worthy but decidedly gloomy university production of The Cherry Orchard and Chekhov must, I
am sure, have featured in a lecture or two.  Perhaps because they were next to each other on a
Nineteenth Century Dramatists’ reading list, in my mind I clumsily lumped Chekhov with Ibsen as
representatives of some sort of Nordic Noir (geographically hopelessly inaccurate for the former, I
concede). As I progressed through my teaching career, I mentally locked Chekhov away in a dark box
marked “Significant but bleak. Open only if he comes up on the syllabus”. He never did, or, more
accurately, I nimbly tiptoed around him.

What a mistake!

I often told my literature students that judging a play by reading it in the coldness of the classroom
was like trying to appreciate a Beethoven symphony by thumbing through the score.  Judge it in
performance, I said. How true of Uncle Vanya.  What a revelation the rehearsals have been. In the
company of my generous and talented fellow cast members, and shaped by Helen’s directorial
insights and enthusiasm, I have come to admire and appreciate this wonderful and rich text.

Far from being unrelievedly gloomy, he is, at times quite, quite hilarious. One of the reasons that he
might strike you as so modern is the way that he seems to anticipate the sensibility of a Beckett or
an Albee in identifying and highlighting the absurdity of the human experience. The overall tone
may be autumnal. Characters may frequently feel disappointed and unfulfilled. But the play leavens
or perhaps augments the poignancy of sadness and failure with extraordinary moments of hilarity
and with passages which movingly reveal the warmth of human interaction.

A stress on moments of hilarity and warmth may seem surprising observations coming from me, the
actor playing Professor Serebryakov. His arrival on the estate has disrupted everybody and
everything. Uncle Vanya despairs. Sonya redoubles her every effort to maintain some sort of
normality. Even (especially?) Nanna complains. He is an old, cantankerous hypochondriac. Or is he?
If so, how did the old grouch, even when he was younger, charm his first wife, an angelic woman as
described by her brother Vanya, or captivate the heart of his second wife, the young and beautiful
Yelena? The audience will find out if I work out an answer.

Meanwhile I make a simple pledge. I will not wait forty years for my next encounter with Chekhov.

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13 Feb 5 Minutes with Helen Wilson (Director of ‘Uncle Vanya’)

Last night we ran the show in its entirety for the first time. It was an exciting thing to get to do and the whole cast is eagerly anticipating more runs in the future.

But in today’s blog post, we are going to spend a few minutes with Helen, the director of “Uncle Vanya”; picking her brain as quickly as possible, during this busy rehearsal period!

What are some of the challenges in directing Chekhov?

HW: I think some of the transitions between comedy and tragedy, really. I think those are the most difficult things to direct and to get right because it’s all about timing. And the other challenge is to really get the cast right. If the casting is right a lot of the difficulties become less.

Can you describe (fairly briefly) what the directing process is like for you?

HW: I would say that some of it is mechanical- exits and entrances and what is on stage and what’s not on stage but a lot of it is, especially with Chekhov, a lot of it is about subtext, what’s really going on under the words. So if you like there’s a current of something, like a current in a sea or a river but on top of it, the words are like little canoes. So people say things but they mean something else.

Are there any scenes that you find particularly difficult to direct and why?

HW: I think scenes of violence are difficult to direct because I haven’t directed that many scenes of violence. I’ve directed quite a lot of love scenes before and scenes of intimacy but I think the probably the scene with the gun – can I say that?

Chekhov’s gun?

HW: It’s probably that scene. Because I’m not a man and I’ve not experienced that kind of aggression so it’s trying to imagine what that must be like.

What about the Frayn edition really speaks to you in terms of translations?

HW: He has a sense of rhythm, I think. Because he’s a playwright himself, and because he actually speaks Russian fluently, he’s got a sense of rhythm and also playfulness in the words and that’s what I like about it – it’s quite playful in a way that other translations or versions are not.

What makes ‘Uncle Vanya’ special?

HW: For me, it’s the 3rd of 4 plays that I’m directing. What makes it special is that it’s a kind of web of unrequited love and I suppose we all know what that feels like and we kind of feel the pain of that.

When you first started directing Chekhov did you realise when you did the first one that you were going to end up doing all of them?

HW: No. All my life I wanted to direct ‘Three Sisters’, or I wanted to be in it- ‘Three Sisters’ was my absolute favourite and then I think I gradually got momentum. Now I’m on my third I think I’ve got to go in for all four of them. It’s like a hat trick. It’s like returning to an old friend. I feel very comfortable with the material and I feel quite familiar with it, though I think in ‘Uncle Vanya’ is very complex psychologically. Probably more than in any of the other plays.

I think Chekhov put himself very much into two characters. I think Chekhov is very much in Astrov – Chekhov said that literature was his mistress and medicine was his wife.  He was a very good doctor but he saw something above and beyond what he was actually doing in every day life.

And he’s also in Vanya.

So you’ve got the character of Chekhov – he’s in all the plays in some way and I think he’s called the father of modern drama for a really good reason. There’s so much truth in it. Some of the things that people say- they just land with the audience and they say “yep thats me, I’ve been in that – I’ve felt like that.”  There’s a connection made with the audience because of what the characters say.

If you had to pick one character from any Chekhov play to be your favourite who would it be?

HW: I would say Vershinin for a man. I would say Sonya for a women because I think she’s incredibly strong. She’s very, very naive but she’s a very strong character.

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06 Feb Telegin reflects on Chekhov

Today we have the wonderful Glyn who is playing “Telegin” in Uncle Vanya with us sharing a few thoughts. Telegin is Sonya’s Godfather and has lived on the estate with her and Vanya for many years. 

So without further ado, take it away Glyn: 

I am not the first to suggest Chekhov as the best playwright since Shakespeare, but why do so many place him so high?

I think it’s to do with a reluctance, by either of them, to sit in judgement. They would rather show than tell, leaving us with intriguing questions rather than pat answers, less didactic than descriptive. They offer us the absurd, tragi-comic, contradictory, exuberant intensity of human life in all its open-ended ambivalence . . . the full-stop that marks the end of Twelfth Night or Three Sisters is provisional, a mere printer’s necessity. There are no real full-stops in Chekhov. Little is resolved, life goes on {while we wait for Godot?} as a shot is heard, the platoon departs, the trees await the axe, and sad plucky Sonya assures a tearful Vanya that “we shall rest”.

Most of Chekhov’s characters choose life ~ what else can they do, after all? So, time and again, did Chekhov, though being a doctor he’d long known he was under sentence of an early death from TB. That he could write with such compassion and integrity of the lives of others is one of the many reasons I love him, and his plays and stories, so much.

Playing Telegin, who watches and witnesses more than he speaks, I have increasingly felt myself to be not only “in” this oddly claustrophobic, sometimes farcical play, but, the more I’ve been able to get to know and inhabit him, and his place in the unfolding events, to be “inside” it too. Gradually, I feel more and more a real inhabitant of the country estate where Telegin is an unpaying yet seemingly welcome guest. Relying on others’ hospitality, for now he feels secure enough while he’s looked after by Vanya, Sonya and Marina, given the run of the place with few responsibilities.

But, as always in Chekhov, there hovers an axe waiting to sever the dreams of those secure enough to feel complacent or complacent enough to feel secure. {Besides, they only want him for his guitar!}

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26 Jan UNCLE VANYA – Tickets On Sale Now!

uncle vanya

Tickets are now on sale from York Theatre Royal box Office: 01904 623568

Book your tickets here.

Wed 28 Feb – Sat 10 Mar, 2018

Time: 7.45pm, Saturday matinees 2pm

Venue: Studio

Ticket Information: £14 (£12 concessions)

CREDITS

Producer: York Settlement Community Players

Writer: Anton Chekhov

Translated by: Michael Frayn

UNCLE VANYA BY ANTON CHEKHOV

Following the triumph of Blue Stockings last year, York Settlement Players return to the intimacy of the Theatre Royal Studio with Chekhov’s classic poignant comedy. First produced in 1899, and an antidote to the melodramas of the time, this is also a play ahead of its time.

When an elderly professor and his beautiful young second wife return to their country estate from the city, they cause chaos on all fronts. Uncle Vanya, the brother of the professor’s first wife, is thrown into an emotional maelstrom and Sonya (Vanya’s niece) is forced to face up to a bitter reality.

Exploring love, loss, and desire and at times the sheer absurdity of life the play’s themes are universal. The sense of what might have been fills the air. We witness penetrating insights into the human condition.

This translation by Michael Frayn (a true Russophile) highlights the playful spirit in which Anton Chekhov wrote. It is the third Chekhov play produced by Settlement in the last eight years. The last being a “splendidly robust” Cherry Orchard.

“The father of modern drama”, Anton Chekhov is beloved of actors the world over. Don’t miss the chance to find out why.

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08 Dec Blue Stockings – Tickets Now On Sale!

BS Image

Tickets are now on sale from York Theatre Royal box Office: 01904 623568

https://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/event/blue_stockings.php#.WEl40rn26So

Wed 01 Mar – Sat 11 Mar, 2017

Time: 7.45pm, Saturday matinee 2pm

Venue: Studio

Ticket Information: £14 (£12 concessions)

Credits

Producer: York Settlement Community Players

Writer: Jessica Swale

Photo by Mike Oakes

Blue Stockings by Jessica Swale

Premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe, London, in 2013, Jessica Swale’s vibrant play follows four young women at Cambridge in 1896 through a tumultuous year. A vote will determine if they will be allowed to graduate and change the future of education for themselves and those who will follow.

“Blue Stockings will have you laughing all the way to the lecture hall…” The Independent

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27 Nov BLUE STOCKINGS by JESSICA SWALE – 1st to 11th March 2017

BS Image

After YSCP’s sell out run of THE RIVALS, we are delighted to announce that our next production will be ‘Blue Stockings’ by Jessica Swale, directed by Maggie Smales, York Theatre Royal Studio, 1st – 11th March 2017. Photo by Mike Oakes.

Premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe, London, in 2013, Jessica Swale’s vibrant play follows four young women at Cambridge in 1896 through a tumultuous year. A vote will determine if they will be allowed to graduate and change the future of education for themselves and those who will follow.

‘Blue Stockings’ – Laughing all the way to the lecture hall….(The Independent)

Hurrah for ‘Blue Stockings’, a play that gets the boisterous Globe audience cheering for the cause of women’s education and muttering darkly at those who oppose it….(Times Higher Education)

 

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01 Sep YSCP AGM – Monday 26th September, 2016.

York Settlement Community Players’ Annual General Meeting is coming up soon and this one will be really important.

We’re in a strong position – we have a production of The Rivals coming up in November at York Theatre Royal Studio; plans for our production in February/March 2017 are under way, and our finances are healthy. We think now is the time to bring in new people to help to build on past success and take us forward.

As well as hoping to welcome enthusiastic new people to the general committee, which meets five or six times a year, especially those with an interest in areas of stagecraft: Design, Stage Management, Stage Design, Costume, Lighting and Sound, we would welcome new members who could take on specific roles in running the group. We’re looking for:

A Membership Secretary who could keep an up to date list of members, send out membership forms and pass subscriptions on to our treasurer where appropriate;

A Communications Secretary who could look after our website and Facebook page and develop further through social media our interaction with members, friends and the wider community;

A Press Secretary who could co-ordinate publicity for productions and other events.

The current Chair, Treasurer and Secretary will be standing for re-election this year, but in the longer term, the future depends on other people coming forward NOW.

We hope to see you at Clementhorpe Community Centre at 7.30 p.m. on Monday 26th September.

Venue: Clementhorpe Community Centre, York, YO23 1AY

A glass of wine or a soft drink will be provided!

For further details, please email: graham@sandskirr.plus.com

Best wishes,

YSCP Committee

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