Not much happens in Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. By the end, all that has really happened is that Vanya and his niece, Sonya, have come face to face with the waste and desolation of their infinitely sad lives. All the 'Chekhovian' elements are there: the idle conversation, the absorbing portrait of the humdrum routine of daily life, the characters caught in a limbo of indecision.
Stephen Dillane played the role of Vanya in the 1998 RSC/Young Vic co-production, directed by Katie Mitchell. The Sunday Times thought the actors in this 'superlative' production 'not only understand the feelings of people in pain, their indignation, their bad temper, their flashes of black self-pity: they also understand the precise sources of pain', and so avoided a common trap with Chekhov of a 'generalised fog of melancholy'. The Financial Times praised 'The marvellous Stephen Dillane ... who is the best Uncle Vanya I have ever seen onstage ... an actor who can convey distress, depression, pain, even mounting hysteria, with often just a thread of voice, and without moving'.