Platonov (Russian: Платонов, also known as Fatherlessness and A Play Without a Title) is the name in English given to an early, untitled play in four acts written by Anton Chekhov in 1878. It was the first large-scale drama by Chekhov, written specifically for Maria Yermolova, rising star of Maly Theatre. Yermolova rejected the play and it was not published until 1923.
The lead character is Mikhail Platonov, a disillusioned provincial schoolmaster. The play is set in a dilapidated country house in the Russian provinces. Landowner Anna Petrovna, Sofia Yegorovna, wife of Anna Petrovna's stepson, and one of his colleagues fall in love with the married Platonov. He thinks society is without ideas and principles, but is aware that he himself is very much part of that society. He is compared to Hamlet and Don Juan, and likes to think of himself as a witty and intellectually stimulating entertainer. In the end, he recognises his hopeless position between the four women and retreats into alcohol. Finally, Sofia understands that she cannot hope for a new life with Platonov and shoots him.
Chekhov's own text, which despite a running time of about five hours he never thought of as finished, is seldom played. However, in 1997 the director Lev Dodin and the Maly Theatre of St Petersburg presented a faithful, and once again untitled, version at the annual Weimar summer arts festival Kunstfest Weimar, presented at E-Werke, the city's former central power station. Dodin cut nine characters (and their interlocking sub-plots) but replaced them with a nine-piece jazz band. The running time was four hours. The production was taken to Saint Petersburg and Milan later that year. Five performances were mounted at the Barbican Arts Centre, London, in June 1999.
The work has been adapted and produced at the Almeida Theatre in London in 2001 by David Hare, the Bristol Old Vic, and by the Soulpepper Theatre Company in Toronto. Hare's 2001 version was revived at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2015 and subsequently transferred to the Royal National Theatre in 2016.
Andrew Upton adapted the play in 2015 under the title The Present for the Sydney Theatre Company where it was directed by John Crowley and performed by Cate Blanchett (Anna), Richard Roxburgh (Mikhail), Jacqueline McKenzie (Sophia), Marshall Napier (Ivan) and Toby Schmitz (Nikolai). That production transferred to Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The play began previews on December 17, 2016, opened January 8, 2017 and closed March 19, 2017. The first time an all-Australian cast has performed on Broadway, it marked the Broadway debut for Blanchett, Roxburgh, McKenzie and the rest of the cast.
Film and television
BBC Television produced a version for their Play of the Month series in 1971 which features Rex Harrison in the title role. In 1977 writer Aleksandr Adabashyan and director Nikita Mikhalkov transformed the work into another film, Неоконченная пьеса для механического пианино (Neokonchennaya pyesa dlya mekhanicheskogo pianino), made in Russian by Mosfilm and released in the west as An Unfinished Piece for Mechanical Piano. This in turn was reworked by Trevor Griffiths into a new stage version called Piano, produced at the Cottesloe Theatre, London, in August 1990. Stephen Rea was Platonov.
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- Yermolova joined Maly at the age of 17 in 1870 but was promoted to play leading drama role only in 1876.
- Billington, Michael (2001-09-13). "Platonov". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- Platonov : a play in four acts and five scenes in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Lev Dodin / Maly Teatr – A Play Without a name, changeperformingarts.com
- Shevtsova, Maria (2004). "Chekhov's text condensed". Dodin and the Maly Drama Theatre: Process to Performance. London: Routledge. ISBN 0415334624.
- Gottlieb, Vera; Alain, Paul (2000). The Cambridge Companion to Chekhov. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-58917-7.
- Shevtsova, Maria (2004). "Touring on a grander scale". Dodin and the Maly Drama Theatre : process to performance. London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415334617.
- Sumi, Glenn (27 July 2000). "Early Chekhov on the mark". Now. Toronto. 19 (48). Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
- "David Hare proves young Chekhov is more glorious than old Chekhov". 2 October 2015.
- "Platonov". Yale.
- The Present, production details, Sydney Theatre Company
- "Broadway season gives Cate Blanchett her shot at a Tony" by Michaela Boland, The Australian, 10 December 2016
- IBDB Broadway database
- "Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh make Broadway debuts in all-Australian production of The Present", news.com.au, 18 December 2016
- Gans, Andrew. "Cate Blanchett Makes Broadway Debut December 17 in The Present", Playbill, December 17, 2016
- "Play of the Month presenting Rex Harrison in Platonov", BBC One, 23 May 1971
- An Unfinished Piece for Mechanical Piano on IMDb