Anton Chekhov is largely taught around the world as a stalwart of dramatic literature. Having found certain nuances in Chekhov’s plays that were missing, the Singaporean Collective 5toMidnight began a word-for-word translation from the original texts that were first written in Russian.
5toMidnight has thus conceptualised The Chekhov Cycle, taking on the massive and daunting task of staging Chekhov pieces in Singapore.
It is built to culminate as a 24-hour marathon of Chekhov’s major plays, with five full pieces going back to back. Starting first, with Ivanov.
In their newly adapted version of the Russian classic, Ivanov, 5toMidnight chose to work with a multiracial cast. Together, they worked closely in rehearsals to find parallels in slang and periodic references, re-contextualising it just enough such that nothing is lost in translation but at the same time, hoping to be accessible to a local, contemporary audience.
Partnering with LePark, and supported by the MATCHBOX and Arts Fund, Ivanov was staged on the rooftop of an abandoned carpark at People’s Park Complex, to an intimate audience.
Anton Chekhov’s pieces has sometimes seemed an entire world away from what we know today, in the 21st century. Part of the biggest challenge as theatre makers is to make theatre more accessible for everyone.
Despite the relatable, well-written plays, I’ve always wondered how anyone would understand any of Chekhov’s pieces, if they hadn’t sat through hours of peeling away layers of the given text. How then does one deliver classics in a way that is relatable without compromising the script?
Founding Singaporean director, Ethan Chia, has developed his own method for actor training which is part of the rehearsal process that will be repeated for the rest of The Chekhov Cycle.
Since its conception, 5toMidnight has reached and developed branches in Singapore, Indonesia and Taiwan, with plans to keep expanding. Right hand (wo)man to Ethan, is Candice Teow, Producer of Ivanov, who was instrumental in the creation of 5toMidnight Taiwan.
Now that Ivanov has finished its first run, the team is already gearing up for their next production.
July 2017 will see the beginning of a new series of workshops helmed by Ethan, leading into rehearsals for The Seagull, the sequel in their five-part cycle, slated for the last quarter of 2017.
“We hope that an audience will spend time with us and these characters in the same way that they binge watch Breaking Bad on Netflix,” says Ethan, who will also be directing the next four parts of the cycle.
If this first part of The Chekhov Cycle was anything to go by, the rest to follow are definitely something to look forward to. Honest, relatable and willing to break all pre-conceived ideas of what theatre should be, 5toMidnight is certainly embarking on an adventure you’re going to want to be a part of.
So for those of you desperately looking to watch something that will get you thinking, look out for 5toMidnight and The Chekhov Cycle, due to be released in five parts in 2017 and 2018.
If you’re an actor or collaborating artist, workshops for the next part of the cycle will begin in July 2017. Drop them an email, if you’re keen on getting involved.
Dates: Workshops start in July 2017
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