Nikotine

The wife of Nikolai Nikotine forces him to give a boring lecture about the harmful effects of tobacco, and ends up discussing the woman herself. Adapting Anton Chekhov’s On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco into a play with a puppet playing the protagonist was no easy task and, considering this, Milena Milanova has done an admirable job.

The play opens with a woman seated on a chair, waiting for Mr Nikotine to arrive. She apologises for his tardiness, putting it down to the Russian custom to always be a few minutes late. As she gazes into the audience, suddenly Mr Nikotine appears behind her in the shape of a puppet. It is essentially a one woman show, with the addition of a puppet; she takes on the roles of the interviewer, the voice of Mr Nikotine, his wife and his cook. The performance takes the form of a conference, interviewing Mr Nikotine about his addiction to tobacco. In a strained, raspy voice he talks about the harm caused by tobacco, and reels off some ‘Interesting’ facts about cigarettes. Suddenly, he swerves away from this topic and moves on to the subject of his wife whom, he believes, is causing him more harm than tobacco. Telling the audience his opinion that smoking kills you, but marriage kills you faster, he reveals how his wife locks him away and refuses to feed him.

By using a puppet, the company are giving an interesting slant on the famous play. There is an exquisitely choreographed scene during which Mr Nikotine dances with the interviewer, and there are indeed many aspects in which using a puppet pays off. However, there are often points where the script is strained by the adaptation and it seems the use of a puppet holds the production back.

Reviews by Catherine Anderson

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The Blurb

In this puppetry adaptation of Chekhov’s play, Nikolai Nikotine is forced by his overbearing wife to deliver a symposium against his only remaining pleasure in life: smoking. But his topic soon turns from tobacco to the pitfalls of marriage.

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