In exploring the repertoire of farce from its nineteenth-century exponents in France and England through the ‘typically British’ pre- and post-war varieties at the Aldwych and the Whitehall, to the work of such contemporary exponents as Alan Ayckboum and Michael Frayn, Vera Gottlieb also analyzes the ways in which ‘mechanistic’ or ‘clockwork’ kinds of farce are philosophically akin to absurdist drama. She suggests that English approaches to Chekhov have overlaid his work with similar assumptions – as in the contention of Michael Frayn, himself both a Chekhov translator and a highly successful farceur, that Chekhov's characters are ‘reduced by their passions to the level of blind and inflexible machines’. In arguing that this is not the case, she elaborates a crucial distinction between farces which, in effect, assume the impotence of human aspirations, and those in which behaviour derives from character rather than from imposed situations, thus offering at least the potential for change. Vera Gottlieb is Professor of Drama at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, and the author of Chekhov and the Vaudeville (Cambridge, 1982) and Chekhov in Performance in Russia and Soviet Russia (Chadwyck-Healey, 1984). She was also translator and director of A Chekhov Quartet, first seen at the New End Theatre, London, in 1990, and subsequently at the Chekhov Festival in Yalta and the GITIS Theatre in Moscow.