Following its production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya in 2011, Coventry's Belgrade Theatre is teaming up with director Helena Kaut-Howson and London's Arcola Theatre once again to produce a brand new adaptation of Chekhov's first full length play.
Presented under the title Sons without Fathers, this new version of his rarely performed play will run at Coventry's Belgrade Theatre from Sat 13 April to Sat 4 May, before transferring to London's Arcola Theatre from Weds 8 May to Sat 15 June. The national press night will be held at the Belgrade Theatre on Tues 16 April.
Discovered 16 years after Chekhov's death and with its title page missing, the play is often referred to as Platonov after the main character, village school teacher Mikhail Platonov, a man who is loved by women. Despite his best intentions he is drawn into a series of extra-marital affairs that all hold the promise of escape from the provincial Russian reality where he and his circle of friends are trapped.
Showing us a side to Chekhov that is funnier, more brutal and more wildly passionate than the writer we know, Sons without Fathers shines a light on this band of disaffected thirty-somethings - too old to move with the times, and too young to let go of their dreams. Consumed by bitterness and disappointment, they attempt to fill the void in their lives with sex and vodka, blaming their fathers for the mess they've been left in.
Adapted, translated and directed by Helena Kaut-Howson, the production provides a fresh look at Chekhov's rarely performed first play, moving the action to a contemporary setting in modern-day Russia.
Helena said, "However rarely performed, Chekhov's remarkable first play holds great fascination for modern theatre. Its precocious virtues far outweigh its defects. Most adaptations condense the sprawling 6 hour long text with its multitude of themes, subplots and characters. This version focuses on one theme only; the predicament of the younger generation left adrift in a world without hope. Relocating the action to Russia of today, Sons without Fathers brings to the surface the surprisingly modern preoccupations of the original. Paradoxically, this perspective helps to reconcile the tragicomedy of the reluctant Don Juan pursued by emotionally starved women, with a state-of-the-nation drama. The audience will recognise the quintessential Chekhov, but the experience will be unlike anything they may associate with his later plays."
Sons without Fathers marks Helena's second co-production for the Belgrade and Arcola, following the critically acclaimed production of Uncle Vanya in 2011. Most recently Helena directed A Tender Thing for the RSC at the Swan Theatre in Stratford upon Avon.
The role of Platonov will be played by Jack Laskey, whose recent stage credits include I am the Wind and Sweet Nothings for the Young Vic and numerous productions for the RSC including The Tragedy of Thomas Hobbes, The Merchant of Venice and The Taming of The Shrew. In 2009 he received an Ian Charleson Award commending his role as Orlando in As You Like It at Shakespeare's Globe.
The Belgrade and Arcola welcome the return of Marianne Oldham, who played Yelena in Uncle Vanya in 2011. Some of her other recent stage credits include You Can Still Make a Killing at Southwark Playhouse and Design for Living at Salisbury Playhouse.
Completing the cast is Susie Trayling (King John, RSC and The Constant Wife, Salisbury Playhouse), Simon Scardifield (The Double, Theatre Royal, Bath), Amy McAllister (The Man On Her Mind, Charing Cross Theatre), Tom Canton (The Picture of Dorian Gray, Abbey Theatre, Dublin), Oliver Hoare (Antony and Cleopatra, Chichester Festival Theatre and The Beggar's Opera, Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park), Jade Williams (In Basildon, Royal Court and Doctor Faustus, Shakespeare's Globe) and Mark Jax (King John and A Soldier in Every Son, RSC).
The set and costumes have been designed by Iona McLeish and are being created by Belgrade Production Services. Lighting design is by Alex Wardle and sound design is by Paul Bull, with original music by renowned Polish composer Boleslaw Rawski.
Tickets for Sons without Fathers are available now from the Belgrade's Box Office on 024 7655 3055 priced from £8.50 to £20 or via www.belgrade.co.uk where cheaper tickets. Tickets for performances at the Arcola are priced from £14 to £18 and can be bought online at www.arcolatheatre.com or by calling the Box Office on 020 7503 1646.