Platonov (play)

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Platonov (Russian: Платонов, also known as Fatherlessness and A Play Without a Title)[1] 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,[1] written specifically for Maria Yermolova, rising star of Maly Theatre.[2] Yermolova rejected the play and it was not published until 1923.[1]

The lead character is Mikhail Platonov, a disillusioned provincial schoolmaster, and his name is used for the title in English translations. 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.

Performance history[edit]

A widely performed adaptation by playwright Michael Frayn, given the title Wild Honey, appeared in 1984.[3]

David Magarshack published an unabridged translation in 1964 at Faber and Faber.[4]

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 Kulturstadt Weimar (Weimar summer arts festival), 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.[5] The running time was four hours.[6] The production was taken to Saint Petersburg and Milan later that year.[citation needed] Five performances were mounted at the Barbican Arts Centre, London, in June 1999.[7]

The work has been adapted and produced at the Almeida Theatre in London in 2001 by David Hare,[3] the Bristol Old Vic,[citation needed] and by the Soulpepper Theatre Company in Toronto.[8] Hare's 2001 version was revived at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2015[9] and subsequently transferred to the Royal National Theatre in 2016.

A new version translated and adapted by Ilya Khodosh was produced at the Yale School of Drama in October 2013.[10]

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).[11]

Film and television[edit]

BBC Television produced a version for their Play of the Month series in 1971 which features Rex Harrison in the title role.[12] In 1977 writer Alexander Adabashyan (ru) 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.[6][13] This in turn was reworked by Trevor Griffiths into a new stage version called Piano, produced at the Cottesloe Theatre, London, in August 1990.[6] Stephen Rea was Platonov.


  1. ^ a b c H.; Sprichorn, Evert (2007). The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama. 2. Columbia University Press. p. 1077. ISBN 978-0-231-14424-7. 
  2. ^ Yermolova joined Maly at the age of 17 in 1870 but was promoted to play leading drama role only in 1876.
  3. ^ a b Billington, Michael (2001-09-13). "Platonov". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  4. ^ Platonov : a play in four acts and five scenes in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  5. ^ Shevtsova, Maria (2004). "Chekhov's text condensed". Dodin and the Maly Drama Theatre: Process to Performance. London: Routledge. ISBN 0415334624. 
  6. ^ a b c Gottlieb, Vera; Alain, Paul (2000). The Cambridge Companion to Chekhov. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-58917-7. 
  7. ^ Shevtsova, Maria (2004). "Touring on a grander scale". Dodin and the Maly Drama Theatre : process to performance. London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415334617. 
  8. ^ Sumi, Glenn (27 July 2000). "Early Chekhov on the mark". Now. Toronto. 19 (48). Retrieved 2009-07-06. [dead link]
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Platonov". Yale. 
  11. ^ The Present, production details, Sydney Theatre Company
  12. ^ "Play of the Month presenting Rex Harrison in Platonov, BBC One, 23 May 1971
  13. ^ An Unfinished Piece for Mechanical Piano at the Internet Movie Database