Sunday, 1 June 2008

The Chekhov Carver Russian Trip - Day Fourteen and the Highlights- 6 June 2004

(By the time of the Russian part of our Chekhov Carver trip, we'd already had a week-long work in progress working with the actors on the stories by both writers and some staging solutions to the ideas arising from our regular development meetings. Margaret and I had been meeting on a weekly basis developing the plot outline in some detail, based on a very basic structure that had emerged soon after our American trip. We also decided on the name of the play - Kaput! - and were working towards a launch event which would happen on the day of the 100th anniversary of Chekhov's death - 2 July 2004. We envisaged that on this day we would have the actors read Carver's story Errand, in which he imagined Chekhov's death, around a long table for invited guests, members of the press and promoters. I also suggested that we might serve some nibbles and a cocktail we would call Chekhov-Cava - or maybe even Chava! - and our Marketing Director Richard Bliss came with an excellent recipe for it involving some vodka. 

However, at that stage, we were still a long way away from what would eventually become Kaput! - an idea of which you can get here:

A more detailed account of how we eventually got there can be found on: 

and a review of the piece on:

The photos connected to this trip were taken by Neil Murray, unless otherwise indicated).

Sunday, 06 June 2004


Breakfast at the Sovyetski for the last time.

Coffee and money session with Tanya on the balcony, which goes very well.

A long goodbye with Tanya in front of the hotel.

And that’s it...

At the airport, I struggle to remember the Russian word for ‘abacus’ as Neil’s bag gets intercepted by the staff on X-Ray machines. I mime counting, she looks at us as though we’re strange but harmless and eventually lets us through.

And, oh, Neil threw his cigarettes out as soon as we landed in Newcastle and has never lit up since (apparently). As for the smell of smoke on his clothes, he’ll just tell everybody it was because he spent two weeks in the presence of a chain-smoker. Or even two.



Favourite Moments in St Petersburg


-       The ambience in The Restaurant

-       Going to lunch with Pasha

-       The run-down alleys of the Dostoyevski Tour


-       Passing the Cathedral of the Spilt Blood on the boat

-       The babushkas in the Hermitage

-       Arriving at the theatre for Uncle Vanya


-       The midnight tour of St Petersburg

-       Doing the Hermitage in 9 min 45 sec

-       Pasha (any moment)



Favourite Yalta Moments


-       The completely crazy waitress by the seaside

-       Chekhov’s garden

-       Chekhov’s bedroom with his canvas travelling bag hanging on the wall


-       The moment we walked into the first dining room in Chekhov’s house

-       Touching Chekhov’s desk

-       The walk through Yalta


-       Working on Neil’s balcony

-       Working out the characters’ star-signs while walking through a garden with Margaret

-       Walking around the church in the Romanoffs Palace


Favourite Moscow moments


-       Buying the icon at the flea market

-       The gardener at Melihovo resting

-       The granny in the Chekhov museum (in her big shoes and jumper)


-       Dinner at Tanya’s

-       Everyone chewing toffees at Melihovo

-       Negotiating the metro

-       Champagne at the hotel reception

-       Working on the balcony

-       The Novodevichy

-       Moments in Moscow Choir


-       The champagne reception

-       The adventure with Neil and Max

-       Accidentally filming the chestnut tree blossom at the Novodevichy


Favourite Moments from Plays


- Platonov fanning himself with a cabbage leaf

- The snake dance in Platonov 

- Set for Uncle Vanya


- Platonov: ‘Let me get better and I’ll seduce you.’



- A pair of shoes in the Seagull

- All of Platonov 




Most Moving Moments (general)

-       Seeing Pasha waiting for us

-       The intense excitement in the Maly theatre 

-       Pasha and Tanya taking us to the Siege Museum

-       Lunch in the Blinny place

-       The cemetery wall with urn boxes and scratched portraits at Novodevichy

-       Generosity of spirit in Yalta

-       The granny with big shoes in the Chekhov Museum



For the end I have a mathematical problem for you (in honour of the skills which we have acquired or honed on this trip):


Margaret and Duska bought two bottles of perfume at the Duty Free. Margaret’s perfume cost 68 euros or (2412,09 roubles) and Duska’s perfume cost 51 euros (or 1809,07 roubles).

Margaret contributed 236 roubles in cash and Duska contributed 940,60 roubles in cash towards the price of both bottles of perfume and the rest was charged to Duska’s credit card.

When Duska got her statement she found that £69,20 was charged to her account in this transaction.


How many £ exactly has Duska spent in this transaction and how many £ has Margaret spent in this transaction?







  1. this sounds memorable and beautiful but it is tarnished somewhat by my memories of the creative fruits of this jaunt which involved me staring at white lights in wet trousers trying not to looking significant in order to engender the feeling in the bewildered audience and sharing a tiny dressing room with a flatulent spaniard in denial. And carrying naked wet women about. And sharing a stage with the author of this blog. And listening to neil marvel that the actors at the Maly looked different in different plays. And being slapped hard every night.

  2. marvellous, and of course the creative fruit of this journey was to see me standing before a bewildered audience in wet trousers staring at white lights for reasons which have never been adequately explained, and sharing a tiny dressing room with a flatulent naked spaniard in denial. And carring wet nude women about. and sharing a stage with the bloggeress. And being slapped hard every night. and enjoying speaking margaret wilkinson's words.