David Tennant stars in Michael Frayn’s brilliant adaptation of the riotous Chekhov comedy.
When Wild Honey was first produced at the National in 1984, Ian McKellan played Platonov at exactly the same age as David Tennant is now. It’s a rumbustious cornucopia of characters and themes covering sexual comedy, morality, melodramatics, the state of contemporary Russia and a hint of tragedy.
The play was famously discovered in a bank vault in 1920, sixteen years after Chekhov’s death – with the title page of the play missing, leading to its rather varied history of titles. The original piece was nearly six hours long and Michael Frayn has done a masterful job of turning the work into something quintessentially Checkhovian. Most critics agree that if it shows examples of Chekhov’s juvenilia – it also shows clear displays of what a genius he was to become.
Platonov himself is half Hamlet, half Benedict. A sharp and witty tongue – but somehow incapable of decision. Comedic with an underpinning of the tragic.
“I love everyone – and everyone loves me. I insult them, I treat them abominably – and they love me just the same!”
Village schoolmaster Platonov has it all – wit, intelligence, a comfortable and respectable life in provincial Russia, and the attentions of four beautiful women – one of whom is his devoted wife. As summer arrives and the seasonal festivities commence, the rapidly intensifying heat makes everyone giddy with sunlight, vodka and passion.
Platonov – What’s going to become of us all?
Anna – You seem just a tiny bit less married
Platonov – How are we going to survive our lives?
Anna – First of all by enjoying the fireworks.
And fireworks is what follows…..
Adapted by Michael Frayn
Produced and Directed by Clive Brill
A Brill production for BBC Radio 4.
Photo: BBC Radio 4