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National Theatre Blog

15 facts about the Young Chekhov set

The company and set of Platonov, part of the Young Chekhov trilogy.

The Young Chekhov trilogy’s technical team have turned the Olivier into a 19th-century Russian estate, complete with its very own lake. We’ve documented some of the numbers behind this, and how they’ve managed to achieve such a feat.


  1. The lake contains 35,000 litres of water. That’s 980(ish) showers or enough to fill almost three double-decker busses.
  2. The water is chlorinated to make sure it doesn’t go stagnant. The actors have to walk through it, and we don’t want to attract mosquitoes.
  3. While the show is out of rep, the water is kept in a huge tank backstage, meaning all that water will be here until October.
  4. There’s on-stage rain in The Seagull, which uses thousands more litres of water. There’s a system in place to make sure it can be reused and not flood the lake – or the auditorium, ideally
  5. There are between 40 and 50 trees in the trilogy, ranging from saplings to fully grown birch and larch.
  6. The trees are chosen from a managed forest called The Goodwood Estate. It’s more environmentally friendly to use these than false trees – to create 50 fake trees we’d have to use a lot of glue and polystyrene.
  7. There are reeds, too: a mixture of real and fake.
  8. Much of the long grass has been reused from King Lear (2014) and Moon on a Rainbow Shawl (2012). If it’s in one more production, it gets its own dressing room.
  9. Every plant is fireproofed and sprayed with binder to stop wilting and keep it together.
  10. The floor is made of wood from south of Paris. Once the production is over, it will be reused, either in another production or as recycling.
  11. The dirt mound is made from rubber crumb and foam, and painted to look like mud. So no muddy feet.
  12. Within the Drum Revolve, there are hydraulic lifts for the various set pieces. A lift called ‘The Toaster’ is used to move different flats in and out for all three shows: they move up and down like a toaster, hence the name.
  13. The sun in The Seagull comes through a giant floodlight. We borrowed this from the Welsh National Opera, who had it made bespoke for them. It was loaned to Chichester last year and now to us – thanks, WNO.
  14. The train track in Platonov is moved on stage during the show. To make it slightly less heavy, it’s actually wooden with a painted metallic effect.
  15. The island is made from polystyrene and covered in stage cloth, recycled from last year’s As You Like It. Its dream was to play the part of a forest floor, which it has now achieved on two occasions. The Olivier really is the theatre of dreams.


The Young Chekhov trilogy is made up of three plays: Platonov, Ivanov and The Seagull. To learn more and buy tickets, click here.