Tribute to Ukrainian Writer Anna Yablonskaya


On Monday 24 January, the Ukrainian playwright Anna Yablonskaya was killed in the bomb blast at Moscow Domodedovo Airport. Our thoughts are with her husband Artem and her daughter Maria whose loss is unimaginable. Anna was an extremely gifted young playwright, whose work had already received widespread recognition through the Russian speaking theatre world.

In July 2010, Anna was one of only nine emerging playwrights from around the world to take part in the Royal Court Theatre’s International Residency programme. She spent a month in London with us and worked on her play Scenes from Family Life with director Simon Godwin, translator Rory Mullarkey and Emily McLaughlin, Royal Court Artistic Associate. We invited Anna back to London for a reading of her latest play Pagans on 7 April, as part of the International Playwrights Season, again working with Simon and Rory. We have had tributes from her fellow participants on the Residency, as well as the British playwrights she met when she was here. Anna will be missed by everyone here who knew her. Below are some words from Simon and Rory.

“I had the privilege to work with Anna last summer on her play, Scenes from Family Life. It was a fantastic few weeks. Anna was funny, charming, passionate and determined. She spoke a lot about her fascination with Chekhov, not the languid clichés that we often associate here with his writing, but about his frankness and willingness to create characters overcome with compromising appetites and insatiable desires. Anna understood obsession and her characters were all marked by a yearning for something constantly beyond their reach. This gave her writing a superb tension as well humour as we watched her characters grapple with the gap between their dreams and their reality.

I was speechless when I discovered that someone as creative and luminous as Anna had been taken from the world. Of the many incredible things she has left behind, I’m fortunate enough to be linked to one of them. I have been invited to direct the reading of Anna’s Pagans. The greatest gesture I can make now is to make the reading worthy of her. I will feel her in the room with me and the actors; encouraging us, interrogating us, asking us all to go further. Anna, I hope we can make you proud.”

Simon Godwin, Director

“Anna had that rare combination of intellect and heart, which made her wonderful to be around, both as a playwright and as a friend, and brought laughter and warmth to lives both real and imagined. Her characters are often misfits: failed musicians, inept teachers, traumatised soldiers, lost boys and girls, but she invested their stories with a tenderness, which filled even the most desperate of situations with humour and redemptive possibilities. She saw the goodness in everybody. She was clever and generous and kind. She loved London, and she couldn’t wait to come back. One of the characters in her play, Pagans, says, “A person is never ready”. And we weren’t ready: neither she to go, nor the rest of us to remain without her. Much shall, and should, be made of her talent and promise; but it was a talent cut short just in its blossoming, and a promise the world proved unable to keep. Goodbye, Anna. You shall be sorely missed.”

Rory Mullarkey, Translator