The Columnist
  to the Independent page
  A New Calender
Chekhov and Christie
  True Spirit of Christmas
  Father's turn for the Verse
  Airport Paperback
  Contract Tree Killer
  Airport 3






A Theatrical Sensation:
A Chekhov and Christie Collaboration

Roy Marsden, who has been producing all Agatha Christie's plays for a theatre festival, says that he isn't approaching her as a thriller writer but is giving her all the respect and methodology you might give to someone like Chekhov. It's not often you see the names Christie and Chekhov in the same sentence, so I have been inspired to challenge the mighty computer here at the Independent to come up with a Christie/Chekhov collaboration. The computer is well used to literary challenges, and no sooner said than done, so here is a brief extract from his....

"The Case Of Uncle Vanya"

See what you think...

Act Four

Seated round the library on various chairs are the members of the Voinitsky family, with the doctor, Astrov, and the old children's nurse, Marina. Standing at the library table is Hercule Poirot.

Poirot: ... And so, my friends, we come to the mysterious affair of the two shots on that day. The two shots which I, Hercule Poirot, happened to hear as I was passing the house on my way to the railway station. What was I to do? I entered the house as quickly as I could ...

Astrov: We were all amazed by your speed. We knew you could not be from round these parts. Nobody round here moves rapidly any more. What would be the point? There is nothing worth doing.

Poirot: Permit me to resume my summary. I make an immediate search for the body. There is no body. I make a search for the gun. It is lying on the table. Two shots have been fired from it. But by whom?
Voinitsky: That's easy. By me.

Sonia: No ! It's not true! It was I !

Yeliena: It was I !

Poirot: Please - I beg of you! Not this charade again. All of you claim to have fired the shot, so clearly you are shielding someone. But who? And what is his crime? There is no crime! And here is another curious thing. There was one person who did NOT claim to have pulled the trigger. You, sir! He points at Serebriakov. You, sir, did not even bother to lay claim to the crime, which suggests that you are the one being shielded!

Serebriakov: This is ridiculous! Ivan Petrovich, I am going to do some work! I shall be in the study!

Poirot: I must ask you to stay here, sir. Nobody leaves the room while Poirot does his summing up... ! But first, here is another mystery. All of you have an elaborate system of aliases. Mr Voinitsky is also known as Ivan Petrovich. And also as Ivan. Also as Vanya. Miss Sonia can easily become Sophia or even Sonechka....

Astrov: Oh, for heaven's sake, Poirot - that's the way we Russians use names all the time!

Poirot: Maybe, maybe not. Here is another curious thing. None of you has any jobs. Nobody does any work. Even Miss Marina...

Marina: I am a children's nurse!

Poirot: ( drily ) Peut-etre, mademoiselle. Sadly, there are no children here, which casts a little doubt on your story. And you, Doctor Astrov....

Astrov: I am a doctor.

Poirot: No doubt. Therefore you probably have access to many poisons and drugs...

Sonia: What are you saying, M. Poirot ? There has been no poisoning ! What are you driving at?

Poirot: Simply that I took the liberty of glancing inside the good doctor's medical bag while his back was turned. There are no medicines in there. It is full of miniature bottles of vodka.

Astrov: It is true. But do not forget that in Russia vodka is a cure for many things.

Poirot: Yes, I know. Mostly for your wretched fatalism, for this dreadful pessimism which hangs over everything. Why, in the short time we have been in Russia, even my companion Major Hastings has been infected by it. He has become morose and moody ... Where is Hastings, by the way? Hastings! Where are you?

Marina: Was that the gentleman I saw going out to garden with a gun?

Poirot: A gun? Mon dieu! From outside, there is a shot. Poirot runs out. Nobody else moves.

Serebriakov: Well, if that is all, I am going back to work.

Yeliena: And I am going for a walk.

Soon only Astrov and Voinitsky are left.

Astrov: A small vodka, Vanya?

Voinitsky: Why not, Astrov? What else is there to do?


Independent - Friday June 29 2001