The Bear

Written by Anton Chekhov (Adapted by Michael Frayn)
Directed by Paula Callaghan
Performed in:
Bray: Wed 29 January 2003
Kilmallock: Sat 25 October 2003
Kilmuckeridge: Fri 31 October 2003
Palmerstown: Tue 11 November 2003
Manorhamilton: Sat 15 November 2003
Doonbeg: Sun 23 November 2003

This is one of Chekhov's very short plays. It's a comedy, unlike some of his more serious full length dramas, which he considered comedies. The Bear expresses much of human nature and does it all in one short, comical, bizarre, and ultimately triumphant act. Chekhov shows how close anger and passion can be at times and often how strange and wonderful are the people who express those emotions.

After seven long months, Popova remains in mourning following the death of her husband. Alone in her country house, she refuses to go outside or to accept any visitors. That calm, mournful routine is shattered when Smirnov calls and insists on seeing her about money that her husband owed him. He demands, making light of her loss - in the light of his. She refuses - stubbornly holding to her belief that her husband was an honourable man. The verbal war escalates - "Men are rude and inconstant!" "Women are fickle and manipulative!" As it happens, Popova's husband was actually a liar and cheat, but she remains true to his memory. Smirnov challenges her to a duel for insulting him and Popova brings out her husband's pistols. A strange realisation then comes over Smirnov - he finds that he has fallen in love with this strong, determined, feisty woman. Popova is unsure for a moment which way she feels, but after a moment, they end up in each other's arms. And all this is achieved in less than fifteen pages!

The Cast and Director: Mary Ryan, Jim Carroll, John D Byrne and Paula Callaghan
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Popova, the Widow
Smirnov, the Landowner
The Elderly Footman
Mary Ryan
John D Byrne
Jim Carroll

Directed by Paula Callaghan

The Bear was awarded 2nd place overall and received three awards.

  • The First Active Shield for Runner-Up Best Production
  • The Gregg Cup for Best Actress was awarded to Mary Ryan for her role as Popova
  • John D. Byrne was awarded a trophy/or Runner-Up Best Actor.

Each award was comprised of a Perpetual Trophy to be engraved and returned at next year's launch in Kilruddery House, and a personal award of a cut glass engraved tankard.


Comments on the play made by adjudicator, Yvonne Robins,
at the Bray One Act Drama Festival 0n 29 January 2000

Bray One Act Drama Festival 2003 Chekhov's first play, a comedy vaudeville pure and simple. It's well over 100 years since he's written it and we can still laugh and enjoy it so much. This is pure vaudeville comedy, very different in style from the other comedy here tonight.


The setting was very good indeed and entrances well thought out. Costumes and hair, very good. The director took a very firm hand here. I feel the director knew exactly what [s]he wanted. There Were some very nice moments in it. Sometimes its hard to know whether these are front the director or the actor.


Two things in particular I'd like to draw your attention to. 1) The slow hand clap of Smirnov when Popava gave her speech was very nice. 2) Another device I liked very much., Luka throws himself into the chair that was there, while the two were talking over hint. He fell into the chair wanting his water and of course he tastes the vodka nd reacts very well indeed, looking from one to the other as they talk. The director then very cleverly gets him out of that chair, into the other, when he wants him out of the way,over here, drinking real water. So there were little touches that I liked very much in this direction.


As I say things may have come from the actor or the director, its hard to tell.


Comments on the performances

Popova the widow, performed excellently, charming widow, very good appearance, very much the part before she ever spoke. I've written down that I liked her reaction to Smirnov's outburst about women. In fact I loved her lack of reaction. She sat there so absolutely right in not giving any reaction to his long speech about about women. And again when she had, her long monologue, she handled it very well, and the whole thing was brought to what I thought was a wonderful ending.

Smirnov, the landowner, made a very good entrance. We certainly were in no doubt he was coming from the stables and was taking over, no doubt. Excellent acting here I thought, especially when he was left on his own. He's there for quite a long time on his own and he handled this very well indeed. And of course, that's quite a difficult thing to do. He took advantage of it. Very good timing throughout in his reactions. Perhaps dropped a little towards the end, but he came up again to what I thought was an excellent ending;.

Luka - the elderly footman - I thought perhaps he was a little too upper class. But there was a very special relationship, I think, in the 19th century between landowners and what we call the old retainers, which I think is important to establish. However, he never would have stood with his back to the fire. That would be the owners position. Apart from that I thought that this was a very good performance and there was a .good sense of comedy and I loved the way he would say "yes ... sir" and I loved the vodka and the water scene. So, as I say there was a great sense of comedy from Luka. Balally Players were very fortunate in all three actors here, because each of them filled the roles so very well.

These notes are extracts transcribed from a recording of the adjudication at the Bray Festival.

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