A Family Affair

A Family Affair

Written by Alexander Ostrovksy
Performed in English
1988

The censor’s report on Aleksander Ostrovsky’s first full-length play read as follows: “All the characters are first-class villains, the dialogue is filthy, the entire play is an insult to the Russian merchant class!”

Ostrovsky was also ordered to report regularly to his local police station, was put under surveillance of the dreaded secret police, and forced to resign from the civil service.

A Family Affair had, however, been printed in Moskvityanin, a popular monthly literary review, and read aloud in the capital’s literary salons, so that in a few months the young Ostrovsky was Russia’s most famous if unperformed dramatist.

Banned for over ten years, the comedy tells the story of corrupt merchant Bolshov who, in an attempt to evade the creditors, transfers his possessions into the name of his assistant, Lazar. Lazar does not give back the possessions as agreed but instead sets up his own business and even marries Bolshov’s daughter. It is a play of social climbing, cunning and corruption with themes that resonate with contemporary audiences in the modern world.

An adaption by Nick Dear. Produced by Cheek by Jowl. The first performance of Family Affair was on 23rd February 1988 at the University Theatre, Colchester.  

“One of the reasons Cheek by Jowl win awards at the rate they do is that they’re not afraid to nail their colours to the mast and be uncompromisingly theatrical.”

City Limits
Cast and creative team

Cast

NameCharacter
Lesley SharpLipochka
Anne WhiteAgrafena
Annette BadlandFominishna
Marcia Warren`Ustinya
Timothy WalkerRispolozhensky
Tam Dean BurnBolshov
Adam KotzLazar
Paul StaceyTishka

Creative Team

RoleName
DirectorDeclan Donnellan
DesignerNick Ormerod
MusicColin Sell
Lighting DesignerNick Kidd
Previous performances

Previous Performances

Date (first performance)LocationNo. of performances
27 April 1988London, Donmar Warehouse, UK24
15 April 1988Carlisle, Stanwix Arts Theatre, UK2
13 April 1988Birmingham, Midlands Arts Centre, UK2
11 April 1988Cambridge, Arts Theatre, UK2
7 April 1988Bury St Edmunds, Theatre Royal, UK3
1 April 1988Shrewsbury, Music Hall, UK2
30 March 1988Stafford, Gatehouse Theatre, UK2
28 March 1988Kidderminster, Rose Theatre, UK2
25 March 1988Worthing, Connaught Theatre, UK2
22 March 1988Milton Keynes, Stantonbury Theatre, UK2
17 March 1988Hemel Hempstead, Old Town Hall, UK3
11 March 1988Builth Wells, Wyeside Arts Centre, UK2
9 March 1988Basingstoke, Central Studio, UK2
5 March 1988Oundle, Stahl Theatre, UK2
3 March 1988Harlow, Harlow Playhouse, UK3
29 February 1988Stratford Upon Avon, The Swan, UK3
26 February 1988Wallingford, Corn Exchange, UK2
23 February 1988Colchester, University Theatre, UK3
Awards and reviews

Awards

Laurence Olivier Award nomination – Designer of the Year

1988 – For A Family Affair, Philoctetes and The Tempest at the Donmar Warehouse

Laurence Olivier Award nomination – Observer Award for Outstanding Achievement

1988 – Nick Dear for A Family Affair

Laurence Olivier Award nomination – Comedy Performance of the Year

1988 – Lesley Sharp in A Family Affair

Reviews

“One of the reasons Cheek by Jowl win awards at the rate they do is that they’re not afraid to nail their colours to the mast and be uncompromisingly theatrical.”

City Limits
Production photo
Photograph: Robert Workman
Production photo
Photograph: Robert Workman

And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Matthew, Chapter 19

All the characters are first-class villains, the dialogue is filthy, the entire play is an insult to the Russian merchant class!

Censor’s report on A Family Affair

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