Includes: 1) Platonov ('71) Play adapted from fragments of Chekhov's first full-length play, sometimes known as the "Play without a Name" or Fatherlessness." Platonov is a village schoolteacher whose high ideals and unflag... more »ging criticism of provincial life render him irresistable to the women he meets. With Rex Harrison, Sian Phillips and Clive Revill. 2) The Wood Demon Play adapted for TV with Ian Holm and Francesca Annis. It is Leo ZHELTUKHIN's birthday, and friends and neighbors are joining him for lunch. 3) The Proposal ('59) One-act play about the tendency of wealthy families to seek other wealthy families to increase their estates by encouraging marriages that made good economic sense. 4) The Wedding (61) Story adapted for TV. A bridegroom's plans to have a general attend his wedding ceremony backfire when the general turns out to be a "lowly" naval captain. 5) The Seagull ('78) Play adapted for TV in which a struggling writer Konstantin becomes enamored by a visiting young actress Nina. With Anthony Bate, Stephen Rea and Michael Gambon. 6) An Artist's Story ('74) A film adaptation of the Chekhov short story in which an artist bored with country life challenges a charity worker's ideals. With Patrick STEWART. 7) Uncle Vanya ('70) Play adapted for TV with Anthony Hopkins, Freddie Jones and Ann Bell. When your life has been spent supporting a distinguished relative, what do you do when he turns out to be not so distinguished after all? 8) Uncle Vanya ('91) Studio production of Chekov's wistful masterpiece with David WARNER as the retired prof whose return sets in motion a typically Chekovian comic tragedy of lost hopes, stifled passion and belighted ideas. With Ian Bannen, Ian Holm, Rachel Kempson and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. 9) The Three Sisters ('70) Play adapted for TV with Janet Suzman, Eileen Atkins and Michele Dotrice as the Prozorov sisters who dream of returning to Moscow after eleven years of living in a provinvcial Russian town. 10) The Cherry Orchard ('62) Madame Ranyevskaya returns to Russia after some years in Paris & finds that the family estate has gone to seed.Can the precious cherry orchard be saved from the axe? With John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft and Judi Dench. 11) The Cherry Orchard ('81) Sensing that revolution was about to put an end to privileged and protected ways of life, Chekhov wrote with sympathy for the complacent gentry, but also with excitement for the future. With Judi Dench, Bill Paterson and Timothy Spall.« less
M. A Newman | Alexandria, VA United States | 01/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I went through a period when I was studying Russian language in which I was tired of reading Chekhov. I regard this as a period of temperary madness which I am thankfully past. If asked, I would say that I am an unconditional fan.
One need not be familiar with Chekhov's work to appreciate this colleciton of plays staged by the BBC. It really does contain some gems. The most outstanding work on this collection, and it would be worth it if it had this play alone on it, is The Cherry Orchard with Judi Dench. All I can say is WOW! What a marvelous cast, this is the ideal version of this, the most Russian of all plays. Anyone who wishes to understand Russian society should first see this play and this version of the play. I am hoping that someday someone might do this play and set it in the "new Russia." It would require only a slight degree of updating. Rather than reflect on the end of serfdom, one can meditate on the end of the Soviet Union (it amounts to the same thing, really).
There are other plays in the collection. There is an excellent staging of Three Sisters (Janet Suzman is wonderful here), Uncle Vanya and the Seagull. All are very well done. There are few better ways to discover all the plays of Chekhov in such an easy and accessable manner. One can only look forward to further collections of classic dramatists from the BBC."
One of the best Vanyas ever in English
Tim | 05/05/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have not had time to go through this entire set, but have watched the included version of Uncle Vanya with Ken Jones as Vanya and a young Anthony Hopkins as the doctor. Jones is one of the best Vanyas I have seen; his histrionics are presented in a sustained crescendo that ends in a state of absolute meltdown. Vanya is a very difficult role since the actor must constantly ride this wave of emotion without blowing it. Jones is remarkable, so is Anthony Hopkins as Astrov and Jennifer Armitage as Sonja. There seem to be some minor liberties with the text but it all works well."
Oppicelli Ernesto | 10/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THIS IS A MARVELLOUS COLLECTION OF GREAT THEATRE. I WISH I HAD THE CHANCE TO STIMULATE THE BBC TO PRODUCE MORE OF THESE COLLECTIONS. I AM SURE THEY HAVE A LOT OF EXCELLENT STRAIGHT PLAYS TO BE OFFERED, SO I HOPE ....AND LET ME KEEP MY FINGERS CROSSED. ERNESTO OPPICELLI - VIA CERTOSA 1A 3 - 16159 GENOVA CERTOSA/ITALY email@example.com"
Sabotaged by low production values
C. Ackerman | 04/06/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The other reviews of this collection are quite favorable. I quite looked forward to watching the films versions of these plays -- I've read the plays but haven't had the opportunity to see them so this seemed a way to do it on the cheap -- but a little less than halfway through the series, I found myself being unable to justify the time commitment necessary to finish. There are several things reasons for this.
First, the plays, I'm afraid, just look bad. I don't know much about the history of film technology but there's something off about the look of the shows, which seems typical of the 1970s and 1980s. Films made at that time don't have this cheap look, but in these plays, colors aren't quite right and I couldn't suspend disbelief and imagine myself in nineteenth-century Russia. I kept thinking, "I'm watching something made in the 1980s. I'm watching something made in the 1980s. . ." So if you're a very visual person and associate DVDs with gorgeousness, consider yourself warned: there's a reason why you get so many plays for fifty bucks. (And in Platonov there's visible deterioration of the film at one point.)
Second, there's also a kind of cheapness that you take for granted in live performances but not in filmed productions. The characters complain about the heat but don't look hot, a fireworks display looks canned, etc.
Third, the acting is erratic and that is lethal when it comes to Chekhov. So many of his characters are bored out their minds because they want the excitement of the city but for various reasons are trapped on rural estates. This is what I personally find so memorable about Chekhov. But it's quite a tight-wire for an actor because you need to convey the listlessness without having the audience feel that way themselves. So with the play-within-a-play in _The Seagull_, the actors have to make it convincing that someone in the audience would protest how odd it is -- without losing the real audience. Not everyone seems up to the task. Likewise, in Chekhov's plays, there is often a character who has undue hold over the other characters and it's no mean feat to convey their extraordinary seductive appeal. I'm not sure any actor can do certain of these roles well.
The `brand name actors' (e.g., Rex Harrison, Stephen Rhea, Dumbledore) are quite good but in a privately intense way. It's like the actors prepared their lines in isolation but didn't have much time to rehearse together.
It seems like the main female characters have the worst lines. In these productions, their behavior comes across as histrionic and unmotivated. It makes me want to reread Chekhov with an eye towards his treatment of women.
So I completely respect the more positive views and wish I could share their feelings, but I do think potential buyers should consider a purchase with a realistic sense of the production values. (And part of me wishes that this collection sells well to tempt the BBC to redo these plays. Compare their old Jane Austens to their recent productions!)
If you can, however, get this collection via your local library, check out the 1991 Uncle Vanya. In it, you can already see the BBC's march toward quality. At times, it's moving despite its idiosyncratic flaws, the biggest of which is the camera work: it relies so heavily on close-ups that you can't even tell the actors' physical relationship toward one another. It has some other problems as well -- the men's reactions to one woman are dictated by her plainness but the actress is anything but -- yet the production does have an ensemble cast that seems to believe in and embody their characters. David Warner and Ian Holm in particular are a pleasure to watch. [Postscript a few days later: just found out that the director of the 1991 Uncle Vanya the same year married the actress who played the woman who was supposed to be 'plain'. I think he probably knew that he was miscasting her. . .]
"My acting students do a semester of the works of Chekhov. Like many performers some of them have trouble reading. They find the assignment to read the four major plays of Chekhov a daunting task. This collection allows them to view the plays in an easy to understand, authentic form, careful to the detail of Russian culture. Sir Anthony Hopkins, to mention one of many noteworthy performances, is wonderful to watch."