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Ivanov (1976)



A Royal Shakespeare Company production of a play by Anton Chekhov, in an English version by Jeremy Brooks and Kitty Hunter-Blair, performed at the Aldwych Theatre, London (opened 7 September 1976).

Performance length: 2 hours and 54 minutes (including two intervals)


Ivanov image #1 Ivanov image #2

The first photo shows (from left to right) Carol Gillies, Zoe Wanamaker, and Patience Collier in rehearsal.  The second shows Shabelsky (played by Sebastian Shaw), Borkin (Bob Hoskins), and Babakina (Zoe Wanamaker) during a performance of Ivanov.


Ivanov is set in a province of Central Russia, during the 1880s.  The community is reluctant to change its way of life and confront the modern world, under the guidance of the Zemstvo, an elected assembly responsible for local governmental services. 

Landowner and Zemstvo member, Ivanov, has been overtaken by malaise.  His wife, Anna, is seriously ill; the doctor, Lvov, suggests that her health may be improved by a trip to the Crimea.  Ivanov appears unsympathetic, and his considerable debts encourage him to reject the doctor's idea. 

Neglecting his domestic responsibilities in favour of attending a party hosted by the Lebedevs, he allows himself to be seduced by the family's daughter, Sasha.

When Anna later confronts her husband about his behaviour at the party, he angrily reveals a terrible secret. 

Meanwhile, in another unlikely pairing in this tragi-comedy, Ivanov's elderly uncle attempts to woo the young widow Babakina, with his efforts supported by Ivanov's estate manager, Borkin.


John Wood ... Ivanov, Nikolai Alekseyich, permanent member of the Zemstvo, with special responsibility for the peasantry

Bob Hoskins ... Borkin, Mikhail Mikhailich, a distant relative and manager of Ivanov's estate

Estelle Kohler ... Anna Petrovna, Ivanov's wife, formerly named Sarah Abramson

Sebastian Shaw ... Shabelsky, Count Matvey Semyonich, Ivanov's maternal uncle

Joe Dunlop ... Pyotr, Ivanov's manservant

Norman Rodway ... Lebedev, Pavel Kirillich, Chairman of the Zemstvo Council

Carol Gillies ... Zinaeeda Savishna, his wife

Mia Farrow ... Sasha Pavlovna, their daughter

Valerie Colgan ... Olga Semyonova, a family dependent

Larry Hoodekoff ... Gavrila, the Lebedev's manservant

Kenneth Cranham ... Lvov, Yevgeny Konstantinich, a young doctor working for the Zemstvo Council

Zoë Wanamaker ... Babakina, Marfa Yegorovna, a young widow

Patrick Godfrey ... Kosych, Dimitri Nikitich, an excise officer

Patience Collier ... Avdotya Nazarovna, an old woman of indefinite profession

Richard Simpson ... First Guest

Raymond Marlowe ... Second Guest

Doyne Byrd ... Third Guest

Steven Beard, Joe Dunlop, Diana Rowan, Clare Shenstone, Norman Tipton ... Party guests, wedding guests, etc.


Director: David Jones
Designer: William Dudley
Music: Carl Davis
Lighting Designer: Stewart Leviton
Stage Manager: Maggie Whitlum
Deputy Stage Manager: Titus Grant
Assistant Stage Manager: Caroline Howard
Sound: Roland Morrow
Theatre Programme: Penny Gold
Theatre Programme Designer: John Lloyd and Jim Northover of Lloyd Northover Ltd
Rehearsal and Production Photographer: John Haynes
Musicians: Jeremy Barlow (flute), Gordon Kember (piano), Henry Krein (accordion), Christopher Le Bon (cello), and Peter Whittaker (bassoon)


Ivanov is the second play in which Zoë appeared as a member of the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company.  She joined the RSC at a very interesting stage in its development, sensing an exciting new dynamic among the actors.  'Some of us now at the RSC have a different sort of energy that has not been smoothed, shined or made acceptable.  I like that', she commented at the time (see 'I Yearn To Be So Free and Comfortable on That Stage' interview). 

Zoë is similarly enthusiastic about her role in Ivanov, remarking that she enjoyed 'playing that pursued and flighty widow [Babakina], pretending not to be flattered.  The character had great determination' (see interview in Plays and Players). 

From the outset, Zoe met with great success as a member of the RSC.  Her portrayal of Babakina led to a nomination for the 1976 Plays & Players Most Promising New Actress Award. She had received another nomination in the same category for her first production with the company, The Devil's Disciple (1976).

Ivanov's theatre programme mentions that Zoe's friend and fellow cast member, Clare Shenstone, would graduate from the Chelsea School of Art during the same year in which the production was performed.  Now a successful artist, Shenstone has painted several portraits of Zoe (see pages 1 and 3).

In addition to Ivanov, Zoë's RSC productions during the 1970s include The Devil's Disciple (performed alongside Ivanov from 2 September 1976), Wild Oats (1976), The Taming of the Shrew (1978), Captain Swing (1978), Piaf (1978), and Once in a Lifetime (1979).  During the 1980s, she returned to the company for Twelfth Night (1983), The Comedy of Errors (1983), Mother Courage and Her Children (1984), and Othello (1989).

Press coverage

'Zoë Wanamaker is wonderfully funny and subtle as Babakina', wrote W. Stephen Gilbert in Plays & Players.  Her acting demonstrated 'an earthy richness' that delighted The Times's Ned Chaillet.  With Ivanov, Zoë 'establishes herself as a young actress in the very front rank', declared Michael Coveney.


A poster advertising this production of Ivanov was sold during the run.  Now copies may occasionally be found second-hand.

Ivanov by Anton Chekhov, translated by Peter Carson

Related links

Ivanov production information - Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Ivanov complete text - Project Gutenberg

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