Shortly before the world changed forever with the Covid-19 pandemic, a dear friend and I had one of the last nights of normality I can remember witnessing Uncle Vanya at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Opening on the 14th of January and ultimately being cut criminally short due to the coronavirus on the 16th of March, this stunning adaptation from Olivier Award-winning writer Conor McPherson and acclaimed director Ian Rickson proves to be the definitive version of Anton Chekhov’s beloved play.
Boasting an all-star cast fronted by Toby Jones and Richard Armitage, this bleak tale set entirely in a crumbling estate in the middle of nowhere feels more relatable than ever through a lockdown lens, in its portrayal of isolation and wasted time. First published 123 years ago, Uncle Vanya explores the discontent of a small group of people as hidden passions are unearthed, lives wasted are mourned, and regret looms large. It is a typically downbeat premise from Chekhov, but this new adaptation is surprisingly funny – Toby Jones in particular offers a masterful performance that blurs the line between comedy and tragedy, as the depressed and cynical titular uncle.
Uncle Vanya is an absolutely mesmerising production from top to bottom. The writing is impeccable, the set design immaculate and the performances flawless. Performed one final time to be filmed during the pandemic when public performances were ceased, the film serves as a poignant reminder of the power of theatre and a time capsule of this dark, unprecedented time for the arts. A closing montage shows the cast hugging and sharing a laugh before we see haunting shots of the empty auditorium they performed to, and the house lights go dark once again.
This magnificent production is simply a masterpiece of theatre and filmed performance in equal measure.
Dazzler Media presents UNCLE VANYA on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from 14th June
We took a closer look at the Blu-ray release…