BBC Arts has commissioned a film of Olivier Award-winner Conor McPherson’s new adaptation of the Anton Chekhov masterpiece, Uncle Vanya from Sonia Friedman Productions and Angelica Films (an All3Media company).

The film will have a theatrical release prior to being aired as part of BBC Arts Culture In Quarantine initiative.

A specially commissioned version of the original stage production, directed by Olivier Award-nominated Ian Rickson, produced during lockdown, and filmed without an audience, the two-hour film features a cast including Toby Jones, Richard Armitage, Rosalind Eleazar, Aimee Lou Wood, Anna Calder-Marshall, Dearbhla Molloy, Peter Wight and Roger Allam, and is directed for screen by Ross MacGibbon.

Uncle Vanya, produced by Sonia Friedman Productions, opened at the Harold Pinter Theatre in January 2020 to five-star reviews. Despite playing to sold-out audiences from January, and currently nominated for four Olivier Awards, the production had to shut down in March 2020 due to COVID-19. 

As the first British theatre production closed by the pandemic to be filmed in situ, the production team adhered to strict protocols to ensure the safety of both cast and crew. This involved the cast being in isolation and on a COVID-19 testing schedule to allow them to perform together, and the crew have worked in protective masks and PPE, while remaining socially distanced throughout the entire process.

Sonia Friedman (SFP) and Sally Angel (Angelica Films) said: “Collaborating on filming Ian Rickson’s extraordinary production of Uncle Vanya has been a wonderful and inspiring experience. Despite all the challenges involved in filming this production (with no social distancing on screen), the results are testament to a brilliant and dedicated cast and crew led by Ian himself alongside Ross MacGibbon. It is such a privilege that we are able to bring this beautiful production to a wider audience after its run was cut so brutally short by the Covid-19 pandemic in March. We would also like to thank SFP’s loyal coproducers who have so generously allowed us to pursue this vision for the filmed production and enabled it to become a reality”.

Jonty Claypole, Director of BBC Arts said: “This exceptional production of Uncle Vanya has been brought to the screen via the extraordinary talent and dedication of the cast and crew, director Ian Rickson, Sonia Friedman Productions and Angelica Films. BBC Arts has been working with the creative industries throughout lockdown to ensure their work reaches a UK wide audience during this challenging time. It’s a joy to know that the whole country will have access to such a brilliant adaptation of Chekov’s masterpiece.”

Jon Creamer