Focusing on how Chekhov has been received in Britain since the early 20th century, this paper examines the dominantly conservative critical tendency towards Chekhov"s plays. I argue that the 1977 adaptation of The Cherry Orchard by Trevor Griffiths (1935- ), one of Britain"s most accomplished contemporary political dramatists, stands as an effective intervention to the British critical tradition which has removed from Chekhov"s work its political significance and class implication. Griffiths recognized that he needed to reclaim the meanings lost in the established naturalist text which had long been labelled and circulated as non-political in the British theatrical tradition. He wanted to break with the prevailing critical convention reading the play as an elegy for the decline of civilization, and his adaptation disclosed a text which emphasized a positive acknowledgment of the necessity of the collapse of old order. Griffiths"s adaptation aimed to release the most popular modem play from its accumulations of middle-class respectability and to de-familiarize it. It is an act of critical strategy of making the familiar different and of replacing non-historicity with specific historicity. His political reading is reinforced by the effective utilization of sub-textual narratives lurking beneath the original text as well as by the radical characterizations of Trofimov and Lopahkin.
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