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Anton Chekhov writes an email to the WhatsOnStage Awards

The letter was read out by winner Simon Stephens at the WhatsOnStage Awards

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Sam Yates and Simon Stephens reading out Anton Chekhov’s email, © Danny Kaan

Last Sunday, the West End production of Vanya won the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Play Revival.

To mark the occasion, famed (and long dead) writer Anton Chekhov wrote the following email, read out on stage by Simon Stephens:


Dear People who voted for the WhatsOnStage Awards,

Thanks guys. This is f**king crazy.

We didn’t really have theatre awards like this when I was alive. There is part of me that is entirely baffled by the idea of turning art into a competition. But if there was one thing I came to value in the course of my work it is that, regardless of what we think about them, audiences know more than anybody else. They intuit things. We need to trust that.

When I first heard about this bunch doing a one-man Vanya I thought what the f**k guys. Haven’t you read my play? Are you like f**king skint or something? But I watched the conditions Wessex Grove made for everybody and the care and the rigour that Sam Yates and the team he assembled put into making the play and I recognised that. That collective faith. That’s theatre. It was the same in the 1890s let me tell you. It’s timeless. And now I think I know what they were trying to do. I think that they, like me, had faith in their audience. And the power of a shared imagination. And they had a faith that a congregation of strangers gathered in one space at one time to imagine the same thing for a while, can be astonishing.

It can survive pandemics. It can survive economic peril. Despite how hard a government might try to break theatres and challenge our faith in the shared experience, and they do try, they do, they never will. It transcends our individuality. It survives us.

I also realised that Andrew Scott was f**king mental good. He is an actor of brilliance and diligence and wit and humanity. And if I was alive now, I would definitely want to work with that f**ker.

Have some champagne for me. F**k, I miss champagne.

Love Anton.


Vanya is being released in cinemas next week.