Like Plath, trees were of great importance to Chekhov. Some have described him as the first ecological writer of the twentieth century. The Cherry Orchard is Chekhov’s last play. It opened at the Moscow Art Theatre on 17 January 1904. The first production rendered it as a tragedy but Chekhov had intended
it to be a comedy. An aristocratic Russian woman and her family return to their family estate (which includes a magnificent cherry orchard) before the auction that is about to be held to pay off the mortgage. Although there are various ways in which the estate might be saved, the family behaves ineffectually and the play closes with the sale of the estate to the son of a former serf.
As the family leaves, the felling of the cherry orchard can be heard. The play treats the failure of the impotent aristocracy to maintain the status quo and the bourgeoisie’s naïve attempts to find meaning in material acquisitiveness. But it is also about the tragicomedy of the family, whatever its class, as a social unit and microcosm of society.
For all information about this free public lecture by Professor Belinda Jack, please visit the Gresham College website: http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/theatre-and-the-family-anton-chekhov-the-cherry-orchard