Ivanov: Ernő Fekete
Anna Petrovna: Ildikó Tóth / Eszter Ónodi
Zhinaida: Judit Csoma
Lebedhev: Zoltán Bezerédi
Sasha: Adél Jordán
Shabelsky: Gábor Máté
Lvov: Zoltán Rajkai
Babakina: Ági Szirtes
Borkin: Ervin Nagy
Kosih: János Bán
Avdotha Nazharovna: Éva Olsavszky
Yegorushka: Vilmos Kun
Gavrila: Vilmos Vajdai
Petr: Imre Morvay
First Guest: Béla Mészáros
Second Guest Klára Czakó
and Réka Pelsőczy, Szabina Nemes, Anna Pálmai, Csaba Erős, Tamás Keresztes, István Dankó
Musician: Eszter Horváth
Set Design: Zsolt Khell
Costumes: Györgyi Szakács
Lighting: Tamás Bányai
Music: Márton Kovács
Dramaturg: Géza Fodor, Ildikó Gáspár
Assistant Director: György Tiwald
Directed by: Tamás Ascher


- Best Performance and Best Director - Tamás Ascher (MESS Festival Sarayevo, 2004)
- Best Set Design (National Theatre Festival, 2004)

Chekhov’s greatest plays: the one without title (“Platonov"), Ivanov, The Wood Demon, The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, The Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard, are all dramas about life failures. Failures of wasted lives in which it is hard to decide what and how much is to be blamed on the circumstances and to the people. These plays take place in a world which, at the beginning of their lives, gives people the opportunity to have ideals, ambitions and plans, but which then confronts them with such volumes of obstacles that are impossible to conquer. The people’s fate is either to lose their illusions or to seek refuge in further, even more impossible ones. In order to be able to stay alive and face themselves in their isolated life circumstances, Chekhov’s characters develop techniques of existence mainly operated by lies. A great English writer of Polish origin, Joseph Conrad wrote in one of his novels about Russian themes: “There is no such thing as false thinking. Falsehood hides deep within the compulsions of life; in secret fears, in half-settled ambitions, in secret self doubt mixed with secret confidence, in the warmth of hope and in the fear of uncertain days." Chekhov is more merciless, his dramas say that all of this - acknowledging examples of constraint - is indeed falsehood which is to be named so and portrayed as such by the writer and the actors alike. Chekhov saw this as tragicomical, but the proportion of tragic and comic elements within this unique mixture has been the object of numerous debates ever since the birth of the plays. Chekhov himself has stated quite mysterious opinions about this, but his portrayals are no less mysterious, either. For instance he wrote two versions of Ivanov, calling the first one a comedy and the second, a tragedy. The Wood Demon, the predecessor of Uncle Vanya is a “comedy", but Uncle Vanya is “a series of scenes from rural life"; The Seagull is a “comedy", but can one laugh at it? The Three Sisters is a “drama", but Chekhov was critical about Stanislavsy’s direction, saying that it created sympathy for the characters; and, finally, The Cherry Orchard is again a “comedy". The old, traditional, and the modern interpretations of Chekhov’s plays are diametrically opposed in this very question. True, Chekhov’s dramas have mostly been criticised for their “objectiveness", for their writer’s observing and portraying his characters from a long distance. It is definitely true about Ivanov. In Hungarian, the verb “to understand" and the noun “understanding" have double meanings: an intellectual and an emotional one. On the one hand, to understand means to clearly comprehend something on an intellectual level, on the other hand, it also means to place oneself into the emotional and spiritual world of somebody. The aforementioned Chekhovian duality of comedy and tragedy may also be determined by the proportion in which the plays mix the two ways of reception in their presentation, and by what proportion they demand it from the viewer. In Ivanov, it is intellectual understanding that dominates. There is hardly any other great Chekhov play which has such simple and clear psychology. Ivanov himself is the only important Chekhov character who openly and directly - even repeatedly - articulates his own problem in life: “I had a day-labourer, Semion. Once, during threshing, he wanted to brag with his strength in front of the girls, he put two sacks of rye on his back and he broke down. Soon he died. Well, sometimes I myself must think: I broke down. Secondary school, university, then the estate, schools, plans... I believed differently than then others, married differently, too; in the whole district there is nobody else that could enthuse, risk, spend, be happy or suffer like me. These are my sacks... I put them on my shoulder and I broke down. At twenty, we are all heroes already, we undertake everything, know everything and by thirty, we get all used up, we are of no use whatsoever." Each character of the play leads a bad life, but not all of them are so conscious of their life problems and of themselves; however, in Chekhov’s portrayal, all of them are such clearly understandable. Among the, only Lvov, the young and irrational doctor thinks that he sees through everyone. Chekhov, the very rational doctor-writer, on the other hand, indeed sees through them, and x-rays them for us. Ivanov is probably his most ruthless, most sharply composing piece. This is why its characters are more familiar than the other Chekhov plays.

“I am mostly interested in human relationships in Chekhov’s plays, more precisely, the network of human relationships... But I did not want to reject the atmosphere either, moreover, I was trying to create a performance with very strong atmosphere, which is, however, has nothing to do with the traditional, nostalgic Chekhovian atmosphere that we are used to. My Ivanov is played in a cold, depressing world, very familiar to us... A typical scene of the 60s and 70s. This scene has nothing to do with the scenes of the original play, however, it perfectly describes the “inner" scene, Ivanov’s soul, the essence of his existence... Ivanov is in a perspectiveless, depressive situation, in which There is hardly any other great Chekhov play which he profoundly analyzes his state of mind (unlike the other characters), and in each moment he wants to understand what is happening to him. And at the same time he does not recognize of anything ruining around him... Chechov saw the world and all situations with a certain black humour, even if the most important characteristic of the protagonist is self-pity. I think that the performance cannot aim at the enlargement of this self-pity, but on the contrary, it should show this self-pity in a sarcastic way."

(Tamás Ascher)

“Ivanov is definitely one of the most important productions of the Katona. It is clear again: this is the only company in Hungary that can be called a “company" in the most complex sense of the world, and each of its actors is a real talent, capable also of renewal."

(Judit Szántó, Színház)

“Nothing wants to seem Russian in this Ivanov... Ivanov is not lying: Ivanov is suffering. He is deluded not by any monumental, great aims, but by himself. Something has happened “inside", which makes him impossible to find his place in the world and make peace with himself. Ernő Fekete’s acting shows us perfectly what this Ivanov is like... Ascher has “re-written" the Ivanov with the actors of the Katona. It will be our way of interpration of the play and of ourselves for quite a while."

(Judit Csáki, Magyar Narancs)

“...An unsettling and poetic performance about human failing, unfathomable vainness of ruin of an apathetic man that is incapable of love. Ernő Fekete plays the role of Ivanov, a man who is exhausted, indifferently takes notice of his wife's death, lending himself to burst of anger and talkativeness, however, in spite of all his sloth he is more than others around. At times Ivanov is a country hypochondriac, other time a tender man with hands in his pockets; a chechovian miser who looks as if stepping off a Lucien Freud's painting. Even his standstill is intensive. In Ascher's direction the family destruction and the trite festivity are coloured by Italian song hits from period of economic boom. The severe scene is very real and impressive and all the company astonishes the audience by performing the despondency. A wonderful performance."

(Rodolfo di Giammarco, La Reppublica)

"...Listening to the first sentences of the performance it seems to be evident that Katona in Hungary is like Piccolo in our midst - all directors speak the same language. Ascher refers an era using eg. crash-helmets, the scene of a cultural house, cigarettes, that is, the language spoken by Ascher and all the theatre is inconsistent with our conception about the modernity of a production characterized by costumes and sets of contemporary style.(...)

Modernity of Katona resides in rejection of subservience; in the courage of the creators to break the rules; in the fact that any text is considered sacrosanct and any theatrical rule is eternal. That is the reason of colloquial style, ironic or sometimes staggering commonsense, the "normality" of both Medea and Ivanov: things are happening in their simplicity and turn into theatrical when the affection or the situation requires it. Never being dictated by routine or any type of arbitrary conception."


(Franco Cordelli, Corriere della Sera)

Ivanov on tour

21-26 November, 2006
Teatro Carignano - Torino, Italy

Critics' applause

"At Ascher's reading the play is turning into comedy. Full and threatening funny elements give special energy and spirit to the performance and together with dramatic effects they produce a full range of wonderful scenic impressions. However, don't think of a modest show. The director's conduct is precise, the analysis of the play is thoughtful, the performance is stylishly kept a firm hand on. As a result of all, the spectator perfectly comprehends Ivanov, who has to live among petty, unworthy and avid people. And to top it all the company's work is wonderful, brilliantly executed and at the same time, it is precise and moderate. Let me mention, at least, Ernő Fekete as Ivanov and Adél Jordán as Sasha. The performance was given a tremendous applause and reception."

Osvaldo Guerrieri, La Stampa, 25 November, 2006.