Paul Rhys, who gave one of the best performances of Hamlet in recent years at the Young Vic in 1999, is to star in Ivanov, playing the title character who has often been described by theatre critics as "Chekhov's version of Hamlet."
Rhys is no stranger to the National, having played the young A. E. Housman in Sir Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love (at the National and then the Theatre Royal, Haymarket), as Edgar in King Lear and as Rudi in Bent.
The National is going through something of a Tsarist Russia phase at the moment, with Ivanov in Sept. (previews Sept. 2, opens Sept. 10) being preceded by the marathon opening (three plays over one day, on Aug. 3) of the Stoppard trilogy about ideas and politics in nineteenth-century Russia, The Coast of Utopia.
Set in a Russia suffering from political, ideological and spiritual stagnation, Chekhov's Ivanov (his first full-length play) anticipates the explosive revolutionary atmosphere of turn-of-the-century Russia. Ivanov, a driving force in local government and a visionary landowner, feels burnt-out at 35. Once the pioneer of scientific farming methods and of education for the peasants, he now drowns in bureaucracy and debt, neglecting his estates. While his wife is dying, Sasha, a young and educated woman, falls in love with Ivanov and determines to save him.
Ivanov is translated by David Harrower, directed by Katie Mitchell and designed by Vicki Mortimer.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow