The Wood Demon

Previewed 16 June 1997, Opened 18 June 1997, Closed 23 August 1997 at the Playhouse Theatre

Anthony Clark's West End Premiere of Anton Chekhov's play The Wood Demon in London presented in a translation by Frank Dwyer and Nicholas Saunders

Chekhov's 1889 play which formed the premise for his later masterpiece Uncle Vanya.

Anton Chekhov's other plays include The Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull and Ivanov.

The cast included Cal Macaninch as 'Khrushchov - The Wood Demon', Mike Burns as 'Waffles', Abigail Cruttenden as 'Yelena', Adam Godley as 'Fydor', Brian Protheroe as 'Zhorzh', Amanda Ryan as 'Sonya', Philip Voss as 'Serebryakov' and Tom Ward as 'Zheltoukhin'. Directed by Anthony Clark with sets by Joel Froomkin, costumes by Holly Poe Durbin and lighting by Mike Robertson.

"Anton Chekhov hated and despised his third full length play, The Wood Demon, and banned all performances of it in his life-time. Last night, the playwright's attitude came to seem ridiculous. Anthony Clark's dullish production, which is also the play's West End premiere, does not suggest a masterpiece has been rescued from oblivion. But this is an endearing if under- developed Slavic comedy of the leisured, land-owning classes of the 1880's, in warm pursuit of pleasure - whether love or vodka... Unfortunately Anthony Clark's production is thin on atmosphere. Joel Froomkin's ugly set-design - huge blond, wooden panels, and poles representing trees - does not evoke the gardens or interiors of country estates let alone a forest... Love is in the air of course, though Clark confuses audiences and makes it hard to gather just what is going on: the programme, the most unhelpful in memory, does not list the 13 characters in order of appearance or give their full names and relationships. Confusion therefore looms." The London Evening Standard

"Anthony Clark's revival of this first draft of Uncle Vanya, which signals the reopening of this delightful theatre, is a decidedly under-powered affair that never pushes either the farce or the melodrama to their extreme limits. Obviously the fascination of the play, written when Chekhov was 29, lies in seeing the later work in embryo... But where the mature Chekhov throws the characters together to show the waste of human potential, here everything is resolved with suspicious neatness. The Wood Demon is a conventional play later turned into a work of genius... There is no great sense of rediscovery, however: it is a low-key evening of interest to Chekhov students but the comedy is not comic enough and the drama insufficently dramatic. It is very much an apprentice play waiting for the transfiguring mastery of the mature Chekhov." The Guardian

"The imported LA translation benefits from deadpan English delivery. 'You've been drinking champagne again and driving around in a troika,' is probably the best deflationary accusation of the year. More reassuringly, George still looks at the ancient professor's languid young wife, Yelena, and says: 'She's so lazy she staggers when she walks.' In Uncle Vanya, the battle for Yelena is joined between the eponymous estate manager and the ecologically correct Dr Astrov. Their early incarnations, George and Kruschov, are beautifully played by Brian Protheroe and Cal Macaninch. The first shoots himself at the end of the first act and the second, the wood demon, has fine speeches about heroism then stays with the girl who loves him. Philip Voss scores a few bullseyes as the old professor, Mike Burns has a field day as Waffles, and newcomer Amanda Ryan is pretty as Sonya without having to play the great heart-stopping role Chekhov later wrote. A must for committed Chekhovians. Otherwise, I fear the Playhouse remains off-limits." The Daily Mail

The Wood Demon in London at the Playhouse Theatre previewed from 16 June 1997, opened on 18 June 1997 and closed on 23 August 1997