Dictionary entry (Penguin)
This is a Chair was premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 1997 as part of the London International Festival of Theatre. In it Churchill, who constantly reinvents dramatic form, has come up with something compelling and strange. Each brief scene is preceded by a notice announcing some heavy, mainly political topic. The performers then play a scene that has nothing to do with its title, so creating a haunting impression of urban alienation, self-obsession and neglect. In Churchill's offering the more one tries to connect the title with the scene it announces, the more they do not make sense. Realism has changed into surrealism.
However, Chekhov's 'jokes' and Chuchill's episodes were written for the stage where costumes, set, language, and of course, actors are used. These components are there from Chekhov's well-loved one act battle of the wills, The Bear, to Churchill's surreal use of words and actions, This is a chair, yet the effect, the style and the approach could not be more different. In spite of these changes in form, changes are what either bring their characters together or drive them apart.
Anton Chekhov, Russian writer and physician, acknowledged as one of the greatest writers of short stories and plays, was born in 1860. Although he is best known for his four great stage classics, Chekhov's first literary career was as a writer of humorous short stories and sketches, which he submitted under the pen name of Antosha Chekhonte. In the same year, 1888, the successful boulevard journalist became accepted as a writer of serious fiction and the unsuccessful serious dramatist emerged as a writer of popular boulevard comedies with the publication of his one-act The Bear. Chekhov described it as a 'piffling little Frenchified vaudeville', which he had written because he had nothing better to do. He termed his one-act pieces 'jokes'or 'farces'. However, French or English farce is generally driven by panic, based on guilt or the fear of social disgrace, which then leads to deceit producing more opportunities for disgrace and ever growing panic. There is no panic or threatened disgrace in The Bear. What motivates these characters is a sense of outrage and anger at the failure of others to recognise their claim for money or status. There is also a hint of melancholy as these two misused people (abandoned by friends in one case and a spouse in the other) lose control of their passions and "demand satisfaction". Drama, originally a story from 1887, was said to be a favourite of Tolstoy's, who took much pleasure in telling it. Adapted for the stage by award-winning playwright Michael Frayn, a noted translator of Chekhov, this piece is a delightfully sobering lesson in the consequences of fame and the attention it brings.
In both pieces, change takes place as the stories unfold on stage, for there is a tale, however twisted, to follow in each. There's a beginning, middle and end. Convention is followed, and the audience's expectations of what a play is are fulfilled.
Part 1 CHEKHOV
* Murashkin: Tadeusz Z. Wolański
* Popova: Agata Zalewska
Part 2 CHURCHILL
This is a chair
* Prelude/Bosnia: Basia Kubica, Przemek Figurski
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