Chekhov’s First Play – Samuel Beckett Theatre – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review

Chekhov's First Play - credit Jason Booher 800x400

Chekhov’s First PlayDead Centre – 24 Sept – 4 Oct, Samuel Beckett Theatre – Review by M. Tynan

There was a time when Chekhov wasn’t Checkhov, in a sense. As a 19 year old, he penned his first play which was poorly received by those that saw it. He later claimed that there were two scenes in the play that contained genius. It had many of the elements of his later works, themes of land, power and wealth and a familiar setting and characters. It was also not very good! Dead Centre decided to explore this work, and to expand upon the original. This is something of a remix, that aims to draw on elements of the original and take it somewhere entirely new!

As you enter the theatre, you are told not to sit on the headphones that are at the back of your seat. You will wear these headphones for the duration of the play, allowing the performers to whisper into your ear. At the start of the play, director Bush Moukarzel comes onto the stage to explain what you are about to see. They had a trial run of this play at last year’s Festival and people weren’t really getting it, so they decided to add a director’s audio commentary to give an insight into the production. The  play opens with the traditional setting, with Bush explaining motifs and ideas but also commenting on the actors and the production itself. That is before it all slowly slips away and the madness begins!

The impressive set of Andrew Clancy deserves a mention as it is bruised and battered throughout the performance and the sound design of Jimmy Eadie works extremely well, with the audience in their isolated world. The use of the headphones allows the audience to feel detached from those around them within this collective experience. The cast are an ensemble, with each of the actors having their moments in the spotlight, often parodying their own career, playing versions of themselves on stage. Rory Nolan confirming he is a Legend and Dylan Tighe working through his career as a voice over artist. Director Bush Moukarzel is filled with existential angst over his failed attempts to reinvent theatre for a new generation.

This is another piece of metatheatre, and you would expect no less from the makers of Lippy, which won the OBIE award in New York last year. This new production is far more accessible than its predecessor and is pumped with humour, along with an onslaught of ideas. It will obviously come with a warning for those looking for a serious production of Chekhov’s work, as it leaves the original behind quite early on. The themes are similar, but have been updated for a modern Ireland, with the feel of a wild party you have stumbled across. Exuberant and fresh, this is like an adrenalin shot straight to the chest. Go see it for yourself.

Chekhov’s First Play – Dead Centre – 24 Sept – 4 Oct, Samuel Beckett Theatre


Venue: Samuel Beckett Theatre

Previews: Sept 24 & 25, 7.30pm

Dates: Sept 26, 30, Oct 1, 2 & 3, 7.30pm

Sept 27, Oct 3 & 4, 2.30pm

Tickets: €15 – €25

Booking: dublintheatrefestival.com

Duration: Approx. 75 mins. (No interval)



Directed by Bush Moukarzel and Ben Kidd

Cast includes: Liam Carney, Breffni Holohan, Rory Nolan, Rebecca O’Mara, Annie Ryan, Dylan Tighe

Design: Andrew Clancy and Grace O’Hara

Sound Design: Jimmy Eadie

Lighting Design: Stephen Dodd

Costume Design: Saileóg O’Halloran

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.