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HER Productions takes UNCLE VANYA to Sydney

​Set on a remote rural estate, tensions run high for a family trying to survive isolation, lost opportunities, fading youth and the will to go on, while fighting to retain their privileges and sense of purpose. As the characters struggle to come to terms with a "present too ridiculous for words" and an uncertain future, Chekhov dazzles us with an acute understanding of our timeless human contradictions, and questions our ability to change.

This will be HER Production's second work to be toured to Sydney from Newcastle within three months, following Low Level Panic at KXT on Broadway in February. Uncle Vanya was the company's debut production in 2022 and was performed at the historic Newcastle gallery The Lock-Up, winning Best Production, Best Directors (Charlotte De Wit and Marigold Pazar), and Best Supporting Actor (Karen Lantry) at the City Of Newcastle Dramatic Association Awards 2022. The company's dream to revisit this play and to bring the work to Sydney audiences is now being realised, with great passion, love, dedication, and excitement from the entire cast and crew making it happen.

Annie Baker's Preface

"What follows could be called a translation or an adaptation, depending on how you define the terms. I worked initially with a literal translation commissioned specifically for this project, and then, in my final draft, with the original Russian text. Very little has been "updated"; no cultural references have been changed or omitted. In fact, a particular goal of this translation/adaptation was to preserve all the quoting and name-dropping that takes place in the original Russian. (Waffles's exclamation: "It was a scene worthy of Aivazovsky!" is usually translated as: "It was a scene worthy of a painter of shipwrecks!") Similarly, the grammar of the original text - endless run-on sentences, ellipses, the awkward repartition of words - has been paid special attention. Words like "creep" are an attempt to loyally translate the slang of nineteenth-century Russia.

The goal was to create a version that would make Chekhov happy; to create a version that would sound to our contemporary American ears the way the play sounded to Russian ears during the play's first productions in the provinces in 1898. We will never know if that was achieved, but it was the guiding principle behind this text."

 - Annie Baker

New York City

March 2014

Director's Note

“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” - Anton Chekhov


I have always been fascinated with people, I have been drawn to stories where on the surface not much seems to happen, but within each small moment of silence, a glance, a word, the small glimpse of the inner life of each character is shown. This play doesn’t shout at you with what it's trying to say, the layers of complex characters and choices have led us to unfurl its hidden secrets in each rehearsal, constantly forcing our actors to ask questions of themselves and the world they are playing in. It shows us small glints of its secrets on every page. One could say not much happens at all but the meditation on life is slow and this is just a moment in time that we are given a chance to look in and take what we will.

This is the third time that I’ve revisited this play with the majority of these actors. For some this is the second, and for our newest it is the first time. However we are all feeling the immense gift of spending time with this text, measuring our growth against the memory of the last rendition, approaching the text and relationships differently with our new lived experiences packed into our rehearsal tool kit. To have such a history with this cast and the openness of our new additions, my aim is to explore the text asking the actors and myself to remove all obligation to playing concepts or preconceived ideas. To try and find the whole truth of themselves and each other inside each scene and every moment. 

With an adaption written for contemporary ears we have also set this as our guiding principle when approaching each scene, relationship, design element and the text. My hope is that you leave our play wondering about your own connection to the people around  you, the small moments that lead to one big picture of all life, what choices have you made to be where you are now and what leaps of faith do you need to make to change the cycles that have repeated themselves over and over.

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