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(Uncle) Vanya

(Uncle) Vanya is Howard Barker's startling reworking of the classic Chekhov text. (Uncle) Vanya

Chekhov's Vanya is loved for its humanity and mild comedy at the expense of a character unable to act on his impulses, famously failing to successfully shoot another character. Chekhov later wrote a letter to an old friend disclaiming the "melodramatic" use of the gun in the play and this confession has inspired Barker's intriguing investigation of the Chekhovian world.

In Barker's reconstruction, Vanya's bullet strikes its target and this critical act triggers a liberating energy within the characters of the play which threatens to overturn their stifling and claustrophobic existence. As their world collapses, Chekhov himself appears in order to remonstrate with his now rebellious characters but he is subverted by a Vanya determined to jettison the safety of his 'uncle-ness' and discover the freedom of the life outside the room in which he is trapped.

Chekhov's text is swung about on its own axis and presented anew to create an extraordinary piece of theatre which offers a stimulating commentary on the original but also a powerful celebration of hope, instinct and the will to life. Barker has created a compelling, exhilarating and comic portrayal of a heroic attempt to assert individuality.

"I remade Vanya because I loved his anger, which Chekhov allows to dissipate in toxic resentment. In doing this I denied the misery of the Chekhovian world, where love falters in self-loathing and desire is petulance."
Howard Barker

(Uncle) Vanya 1996
"..an intellegent and fundamental argument with Chekhov's play... a powerful and extremely creative wrestling match... extremely funny..."
Stockholm Dagens Nyheter