Anton Chekhov reading his play The Seagull to thecompany of the Moscow Art Theatre
When Anton Chekhov’s classic The Seagull premiered on 17 October 1896 in St. Petersburg at the Alexandrinsky Theatre, it was a complete failure both in the audience’s, the critics’ and Chekhov’s own opinion. The audience’s angry response to the play was both immediate and intense. They were hissing the performance by the end of the first act. They loudly criticised the play for its lack of action and recognisable characters. The actress playing Nina, Vera Kommissarzhevsky, whose work Chekhov had praised highly in rehearsals, was so terrified by the audience’s response that she lost her voice. How then did a play initially booed by its audience become, as Konstantin Rudnitsky argues, ‘one of the greatest events in the history of Russian theatre and one of the greatest new developments in the history of world drama’?
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born in Taganrog, Russia in 1860.He was the third child of six to Pavel Egorovich Chekhov, a grocer. His grandfather had been a serf, who had managed to buy his family’s freedom in 1841. During his childhood, the young Chekhov and his siblings worked in the family store and studied at their local school.
The rehearsed reading gives the clearest sense yet of bodies on a stage – people – trying to do things to and get things from one another, rather than a series of talking heads showing off verbally. I do the voices a lot when I'm writing which gets you so far but hearing good actors, really good actors – as we had for the rehearsed reading of The Seagull – allows the play to emerge much more clearly. And this is terrifically exciting.
Psychiatrist Dr. Gareth Smith shares his experience of treating mental illness with the cast and creative team of The Effect.
Dr Mark Payton, the CEO and Chief Scientific Officer of the biopharmaceutical company Oxagen, explains how new drugs are developed and why drug development is vitally important for our future health.
Psychopharmacologist, Val Curran, on the science behind The Effect.
Aimee Dumbleton gives an insider’s view of what it is like to take part in a clinical drugs trial.
Dr.Chris Chambers explains how cognitive neuroscientists use techniques such as fMRI and TMS to investigate how our brains work.
Val Curran, Professor of Psychopharmacology (UCL), demonstrates the placebo effect.
Sam Curran (Tom) and Rachael Stirling (Medea) in Medea. Photo: Manuel Harlan.
Can a woman take on the role of a tragic hero? Medea may have a tragedy named after her and play the starring role in it, but can she be considered a tragic hero in the strictest sense of the term? Greek drama abounds with feisty proto-feminist figures. While Orestes quakes in his sandals at the thought of murdering his mother, his sister Electra makes sure the deed gets done. Antigone buries her brother Polyneices’ body in open defiance of both her uncle Creon and the laws of the Thebes. When Clytemnestra’s husband Agamemnon sacrifices their daughter in order to get a fair wind to Troy, does she sit quietly by? No, of course she doesn’t. She takes over his throne, finds herself a new lover and when Agamemnon finally returns home after ten years of hard fighting, she murders him in his bathtub with an axe. Like Medea, these women are clever, determined and tough as nails, but are they tragic?