Ivanov – All Chekhov’s characters debate the meaning of life, chase away boredom and are in search of a purpose. Zdeněk Hořínek has described the uniqueness of Ivanov thus: “…Ivanov is an artificial creation that is pretty unsatisfactory when measured by conventional criteria. The cause of the relaxed construction and fragmented plot lies in the play’s approach to the passive hero of the title, who expresses himself not through his deeds but through his self-evaluation and analysis of his own attitude to life. If this imperfect play has enjoyed lasting popularity, however, it is because of rather than in spite of this dramatically-problematic character. Ivanov often talks – in both dialogue and monologue – of his state of mind, listing the symptoms of his growing dissatisfaction: laziness, nervousness, tiredness, insomnia, headaches, ringing in his ears, a feeling of guilt, dissatisfaction with himself and hatred of his own voice, gait, hands and his own ideas.” Director Tamás Ascher adds: “There is hardly any other great Chekhov play in which he profoundly analyzes his (title character´s) state of mind (…), and at every moment tries to understand what is happening to him. And at the same time he does not recognise the ruination that is occurring all around him... Chekhov saw the world and all its situations with a certain black humour, even if the most important characteristic of the protagonist is self-pity. I think that the production cannot aim to enlarge this self-pity, but on the contrary, ought to show this self-pity in a sarcastic way.”
About the director of the play "Ivanov": Tamás Ascher (1949) – After finishing the Academy of Theatre and Film, Tamás Ascher studied at the Faculty of Humanities. He graduated in direction in 1973 and then became a member of the Csiky Gergely Theatre of Kaposvár. Prompted by an invitation from Gábor Zsámbéki, he joined the new National Theatre in 1978, along with several leading artists from the Kaposvár company. He continued working at Kaposvár as guest director, and held the position of chief director until 2003. Since 1983 he has also worked at the Katona Theatre, becoming a member of the company in 1989 and a director there from 2011. He also works abroad regularly. Since 2006 he has been president of the University of Theatre and Film.
The performance takes place in the early sixties, amidst brutal ordinariness and vulgarity. Ivanov takes refuge in his desolate and empty workroom, and does nothing other than feel pity for himself and the world.(…) The secret of Ascher’s art in Ivanov is that the protagonist walks the line between a sympathetic Hamlet from the countryside and a hideous, vain, empty man. And the others are even more pitiable.
Renate Klett, Theater Heute
What happens when we see twenty actors on stage who know their tasks perfectly, creating the story with the help of the logical time at their disposal, interpreting correctly all the dramatic relations of the play, with their polyphony making reality even more complicated and labyrinthine? Chekhov happens.
Mario Hibert, Oslobodenje
Ernő Fekete plays the role of Ivanov, an exhausted man who notes his wife’s death with indifference and is prone to outbursts of anger and talkativeness. For all his sloth, however, he exceeds those around him. At times Ivanov is a country hypochondriac, at other times a tender man with his hands in his pockets; a Chekhovian miser who looks as if he has stepped out of a Lucien Freud painting. Even when he stands still he is intense.
Rodolfo di Giammarco, La Reppublica
Reset in grim socialist Hungary, where faded yellow concrete walls surround fierce femmes fatales smelling of cigarettes, Tamas Ascher’s earthy, vigorous staging replaces the bloodlessness of so many Chekhov productions with a rough-and-tumble spirit in which the laughs (and there are many) emerge seamlessly out of bleakness. Forget those bucolic scenes of bored men of privilege waxing nostalgic among stately trees. This is tougher stuff — Chekhov by way of Beckett.
Jason Zinoman, The New York Times