Howard Barker’s (Uncle) Vanya ‘extraordinary’ piece of theatre

The Faculty of Fine Arts had the following to say about the upcoming production of (Uncle) Vanya.

Theatre @ York opens its third show of the season, Howard Barker’s (Uncle) Vanya directed by guest artist Geoffrey Hyland, on Feb 4 at York University. The production previews Feb. 2 & 3 and runs until Feb. 8 at Atkinson Studio Theatre, 102 Atkinson College.

This startling re-interpretation of Chekhov’s classic tragi-comedy by controversial British playwright Howard Barker swings Chekhov’s text on its own axis, morphing it into an extraordinary piece of theatre that both stimulates commentary on the original and serves as a powerful celebration of a heroic attempt to assert individuality.

“I remade Vanya because I loved his anger,” explained Barker. “In doing this I denied the misery of the Chekhovian world, where love falters in self-loathing and desire is petulance.”

Chekhov”s Uncle Vanya is loved for its humanity and mild comedy at the expense of a character unable to act on his impulses, famously failing to successfully shoot another character. However, in Barker”s reconstruction, the bullet strikes its target and this critical act triggers a liberating energy within the characters of the play which threatens to overturn their stifling and claustrophobic existence. Chekhov himself even appears to remonstrate with his now rebellious characters, but he is subverted by a Vanya determined to free himself from the safety of his “uncle-ness”.

Hyland, the guest director and an alumnus of York’s Graduate Program in Theatre, has directed over 50 productions. A lecturer in the Drama Department at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, he has been honoured with South Africa’s Fleur du Cap Award for Directors and the coveted Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Drama.

Theatre @ York productions spotlight the Department of Theatre’s impressive students. The cast for (Uncle) Vanya is drawn from the graduate acting ensemble and showcases the talents of Christian Dives, Stephanie Lalor, Nicole Landau, Michael MacDonald, Tanya Smith, Richard Stewart, Nelson Tome, Imelda Villalon and Samantha Wilson. Set, props and costume design are by faculty member Sylvia Defend with lighting design by 4th-year production student Angie Stillitano.

Showtime is 7:30pm nightly with matinees Feb. 5 & 7 at 1pm. Tickets are available at the door, or in advance from the Theatre @ York box office, ext. 55172, #3.