Nina Sosanya is playing Anna Petrovna – twice.
Two very different Anna Petrovnas in two very different plays, Platonov and Ivanov, in Chichester Festival Theatre’s Young Chekhov season.
As she says, they are very contrasting roles.
“In Platonov, Anna Petrovna is the widow of a general who was the estate owner. She now lives running the estate in the summer months, and on the surface she is quite an independent woman. She has not remarried. She is educated. She is quite a free spirit – but she is in debt.
“The general has lost all his money. She is described a lot of times as one of Chekhov’s emancipated females, and she would like to be, but she is actually quite shackled.
“Chekhov was 20 when he wrote this mad, may play that David Hare has turned into this really exciting tale. Platonov wasn’t even called Platonov. They don’t even know what it was called. It’s a collection of scenes and writing that he never actually constructed into one play. When you put it together, it is something like six hours. We are not doing that!
“But when anybody does it, it does mean that they are actually doing a version of it. I think it was pretty clear that it was going to be just the one play, but you have to do an edited version of it all.”
The central character in Platonov is a debt-ridden schoolteacher who is about to lose his home, yet remains irresistible to women. The result is a freewheeling comedy set in the middle of nowhere, exploring the traps of conventionality and moral hypocrisy.
As for Anna Petrovna in Ivanov: “It is a more structured, more mature play. The character of Anna Petrovna is Ivanov’s wife, but she was cut off by her parents, and the inheritance that he hoped to gain has never materialised. She also has consumption, and like most Chekhov characters she is trying to escape.”
Chekhov’s just not interested in happy people then?
“Oh no, something awful has got to happen to them! But some characters in Platonov are hilariously funny because they are so awful, just the peculiarities of their life. Chekhov manages to point up the absurdities and get the humour out of pretty dire circumstances. But with Ivanov, he gets more refined. He gets clearer in the later plays.”
When it comes to it, Nina has no doubt she will also be wishing she’s in The Seagull, the piece that completes Chichester Festival Theatre’s Young Chekhov trilogy.
“That’s just the way the cookie crumbles, but at the moment it is really hard work doing the two. People have done trilogies before, but it is pretty demanding. There are a few people in this company that are in all three. I think it’s about four people, but that gives you a sense of continuity that is really quite nice. You get more of a sense of the development of the playwright.”
The shows are Nina’s first time at Chichester: “I did to go Chichester a few years ago, but that was before they (refurbished) the theatre. But I think it is all a lovely part of the country. I like that kind of area, having worked in Stratford.”
Young Chekhov: The Birth of a Genius (Platonov, Ivanov and The Seagull) in new versions by David Hare, directed by Jonathan Kent, runs in Chichester Festival Theatre from September 28-November 14. The company also features Lucy Briers, Pip Carter, Peter Egan, Brian Pettifer and Olivia Vinall alongside Anna Chancellor, James McArdle and Samuel West.
Visit www.cft.org.uk to find out more.
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