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Uncle Vanja

Deutsches Theater Berlin
By Anton Chekhov
German translation by Angela Schanelec based on a translation by von Arina Nestieva

Directed by Jürgen Gosch
Stage and costume design Johannes Schütz
Lighting design Henning Streck
Make up Andreas Müller

Christian Grashof Aleksandr Vladimirovich Serebryakov, a retired professor
Constanze Becker Yelena Andreyevna, his young wife
Meike Droste Sofia Alexandrovna (Sonia), his plain daughter by his first marriage
Gudrun Ritter Maria Vasilievna Voinitskaya, mother of the first wife of the professor
Ulrich Matthes Ivan Petrovitch Voinitsky (Vanya), her son
Jens Harzer Michail Lvovich Astroff, a doctor
Bernd Stempel Ilya Ilyitch Telegin, an impoverished landowner
Christine Schorn Marina, an old nurse
Rahul Chakraborty A workman

Premiere 12 January 2008
Length 3h 30, one interval

Talk with the audience
Moderation Barbara Burckhardt
Thu 8 May 23:00

In recent years Jürgen Gosch has involved his actors in a number of new basic forms of theatre, almost aggressively driving them closer to performance art. Now he has demonstratively placed a samovar at the centre of his production of “Uncle Vanja” – and decided to produce this play as a very realistic psychological drama. Is this a case of empathetic Chekhov nostalgia? Certainly not. The stage, designed by Johannes Schütz, is covered in fresh earth, giving the action an abstract base, and both the director and the performers gaze attentively and curiously at characters and situations that they take just as seriously as they do themselves. “When you don’t have a real life you make do with dreams” – this is the raison d’être of Vanja’s entire family and their summer guests. The doctor, played by Jens Harzer, drinks and dances away his sorrow, while Vanja, played by Ulrich Matthes, spends the whole evening in a state of depressive enlightenment – like a continuous bass note – before finally shedding real tears at the end. The disillusioned professor’s wife Yelena (Constanze Becker), who everyone has fallen in love with, and the unloved born optimist Sonya (Meike Droste) make up a complementary couple whereby one always seems to have whatever the other requires to make her happy. The production is playful, intense, and funny, but it also reveals a secret master plan of humanity, suitably accompanied by the symmetrical tectonics of the evening: the first act is a leisurely introduction to life in the country, while the fourth act is a slow withdrawal – in between there are unanswered questions as to the meaning of it all, bitterly sad and desperate loves, and the comic catastrophes of family life. In other words, all aspects of humanity in just three and a half hours.