Anna Yablonskaya: Playwright acclaimed far beyond her native Ukraine for the acuity of her dramatic vision

In her short career, Anna Yablonskaya became one of the most accomplished post-Soviet playwrights and her plays attracted attention and stagings across Russia and abroad, winning many awards thanks to the acuity of her dramatic vision.

Her striking looks were crowned with a mane of Russian fairy-tale blonde hair.

She was born in Odessa in Ukraine, but she wrote in Russian and had her earliest successes there, at Teatr.doc, a small basement theatre founded by a group of experimental playwrights. At home it was a different matter: she wrote that Ukrainian literary managers "cross themselves at the mention of new writing" and described Odessa as a city dramatic in real life but theatrically dull. Nevertheless, she never abandoned it for Russia and was an active member of the Odessa-based South Russian Writers' Union. She also supported Vladimir Neklyayev, the imprisoned Belarusian writer and former presidential candidate.

Yablonskaya's father was a journalist and compiler of collections of Russian satire and humour. Yablonskaya started writing early: she had a play performed at her school, while her poetry was recited in assembly and started to be published when she was in her early teens. She also acted, joining the Tour-de-force company, which staged her play The Door. She drew on these experiences for her play Bermudskii kvadrat ("Bermuda Square"). It was there that she met her husband, though he was not an artist but the manager of a shipping company.

Before embarking on a full-time writing career she studied law in Odessa and worked in marketing, journalism and public relations. Her poetry appeared both in print and online journals including Prolog, October and Interpoeziya; her theatrical career was short but intense and in less than a decade she wrote around 20 plays.

The Eurasia Drama Competition in Ekaterinburg regularly presented her work, including Pismo v zoopark ("Letters to the Zoo", 2005), Kosmos ("Space", 2006), and Videokamera, ("Camcorder", 2008), whose graceful blank verse contrasts with the study of a man at odds with modern consumerist society. Elsewhere, the 15 miniature stories of Monodialogi ("Monodialogues", 2005) won prizes, and overseas her work was recognised in Utrecht and Wiesbaden.

Though she considered herself neither a feminist nor a controversialist, her chosen subject matters couldn't help but be both. Family Scenes charts the effects of a soldier's post-traumatic stress on his wife and son and the woman's lover. After one reading there was a discussion at which she was criticised for the "unfair" portrayal of the soldier, with the implication that showing how he was damaged by war was disrespectful.

Rather than dismissing this, Yablonskaya tried to engage with the criticism in a way that was typical of the humility that she never lost. Similarly, after a reading of her last play The Pagans, generally seen as her greatest, she went on stage to discuss what she saw as its shortcomings.

Russian writing sometimes tends to gloom to the point of hopelessness, but Yablonskaya, though her depiction of life could be severe and unsentimental, held fast to a compassionate outlook and the belief that things could turn out for the best. The critic Pavel Rudnev observed that, in her plays, somehow "the depressive, dehumanising world reverses itself, like a falling cat, and lands solidly on its feet." Her last blog entry, a poem, mused about attempts to find order in the world:

Book-keeping has drowned in chaos, grief,

contradictions

The same signs always mean different things

Regularities are illusions. The rain falls

endlessly.

Soon there'll be a holiday. Holidays must be

celebrated.

Friends noted that she had, recently seemed sombre. Her blog entry of 21 December read: "It seems to me that I have very little time left." A month later she died in the terrorist explosion at Moscow's Domodedovo airport, having flown in to collect an award from the journal Iskusstvo Kino for a film adaptation of The Pagans. Her non-appearance was ascribed to travel problems and it was only when her husband's phone call was answered by a member of the security services that the truth became clear.

Last summer she spent a month at an international writers' workshop at London's Royal Court Theatre, where the director, Elyse Dodgson described her as "one of the most brilliant, promising writers we have ever worked with." In April the theatre will give a reading of The Pagans in the International Playwrights season.

Anna Grigoryevna Yablonskaya, playwright: born Odessa 20 July 1981; married Artem Mashutin (one daughter); died Moscow 24 January 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricket
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas