x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Capturing the Chekovian spirit

In Dubai this weekend is Chekhov’s Cigarette, an evening of four plays that are a wry, funny take on the drama principle Chekhov’s Gun.

Cast members rehearse 10,000 Cigarettes. Sarah Dea / The National
Cast members rehearse 10,000 Cigarettes. Sarah Dea / The National

If Anton Chekhov were alive today he would chuckle at how his plays are being adapted by some of Dubai’s drama enthusiasts.

The theatre production Chekhov’s Cigarette comprises four plays – two of them by the 19th-century Russian writer – put together by the Dubai Drama Group (DDG) in a 75-minute show that opens today and runs until April 12, all with a common theme of self-reflection and deception set to humour.

“Chekhov was well known for his full-length plays with deeper meaning and dramatic element,” says Cliff Single, the chairman of DDG.

“What is interesting is that when he began writing, he wrote a lot of short comedy and comedy has had a resurgence.” Evils of Tobacco and A Proposal, Chekov’s one-act plays, will be performed alongside 10,000 Cigarettes, by the Australian playwright Alex Broun, and A Matter of Husbands, by the Hungarian writer Ferenc Molnár. The length of the plays range from between 12 and 25 minutes. Chekhov’s Cigarette is a wry take on the drama principle Chekhov’s Gun, which emphasises the elimination of everything that is not relevant or necessary to the story: “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

And so each play will be character-centric, with minimalist sets. “With this kind of show, we prefer not to overdo it,” says Single.

The group has also taken dramatic licence with Chekhov’s works to present their unique perspective. For example, Vikram Ahuja, who has directed 10,000 Cigarettes, has increased the original 10-minute play to 12 minutes.

• Chekhov’s Cigarette will be staged at the jamjar in Al Quoz, Dubai, from today until April 12. Show starts at 7.30pm, entry is free; suggested donation is Dh50

* Afshan Ahmed