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Uncle Vanya is Annie Baker’s 1914 translation of the Chekhov classic, presented by Newcastle company, HER Productions. HER’s debut production of this Vanya in 2022 garnered good reviews. So should this welcomed Sydney performance of the production.

The play portrays the visit of an elderly Professor and his glamorous young second wife, Yelena, to the rural Estate. For decades the Estate supported the Professor’s city lifestyle. Now he is here –with a beautiful wife that both Uncle Vanya and the local Doctor fall for. Imagine the sexual tension and the disruption to the smooth functioning of the Estate.

Uncle Vanya managed the Estate, but now, with the visitors disrupting the routine, he is depressed, drinks excessively and hates the Professor. Trapped on an isolated farm, regretting his faded youth and fighting to find a sense of purpose, Vanya see through the Professor’s pomposity. But so does the young wife. She married for love but soon discovered the horrors of looking after a sick old man. She exudes sexual tension. Her hormones are wafting around drawing in both Vanya and the Doctor. Will she give in to her own desires?

UNCLE VANYA was premiered 1899 in Moscow directed by the famous Konstantin Stanislavski.  It has been translated and adapted hundreds of times and performed thousands of times. Has HER Productions brought anything new to the classic?

First, HER has used the Flow Studio space well, with characters speaking from the balcony to others below on the flat stage. Uncle Vanya, played by Mike Booth, and the Doctor, played by Tristan Mckinnon, are outstanding. The minimalist set is just right for the venue. No huge samovar dominates the space as in most Vanya productions. Some might think the costumes too quirky, but they seemed just right for the space.

Marigold Pazar is the beautiful second wife, Karen Lantry is the Granny, Dean Tuttle the Professor, Katy Carruthers Vanya’s mother who still adores the Professor, and Tony Jozef is the impoverished landowner who works at the Estate. Maike Strichow is the only character miscast. She plays Sonya who is supposed to be quite unattractive, but Maike is very beautiful. 

Charlette De Witt is the producer and director. She and her team of semi-professional actors have produced an exciting, up-close-and-personal Uncle Vanya. The show is playing at the Flow Studios Camperdown until the 27th April 2024.


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