edited by David Hare adapted by David Hare
Ivanov is a man paralysed by existential ennui; his self-loathing is by turns ridiculous and pathetic, as Chekhov’s first completed play whips between farce and tragedy.
Ivanov is deep in debt and out of love with his wife Anna, only rising out of his apathy to express disgust at his own ridiculous condition. He is pursued by rumours that he married Anna for her money, only to be frustrated when she was disinherited by her father after converting from Judaism. Anna is now dying of tuberculosis, sharpening Ivanov’s loss of affection into cruelty. The intensity of his crumpled boredom is fascinating – particularly for the young woman Sasha, the daughter of one of his creditors, who declares her passionate love for him when he visits her father’s house for a languid party. Whether he is accepting her advances, or debating the nature of honesty with his wife’s prim doctor, Ivanov is always sullen and self-lacerating; he satirises himself as an imitation Hamlet. Chekov’s tragicomic portrait of depression is uniquely hilarious and devastating.
This version of Ivanov was first performed at the Almeida Theatre, London, in 1997.