Heaven help those viewers who have never seen the play. Jamie Lloyd after ruining Edmond Rostands Cyrano of Bergeracnow ruins Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull.
When asked how his play should be performed, Chekhov answered as best he could. Hopelessly wrongly cast and underrehearsed, the 1896 premiere was a disaster. The audience in St. Petersburg thought they were watching a farce. Chekhov was mocked and booed.
Lloyd appears to have been inspired by a photograph in the program booklet of Chekhov seated at a table during the first reading of The Seagull with the actors sitting and standing close around him.
Lloyd makes it very difficult to know what’s going on. His miked actors remain seated at all times, only occasionally getting up to move their chair to another position. I felt as if I was watching a gimmicky reading of the play. The staging is the least naturalistic, the least Chekhovian I’ve ever seen. The last act is incomprehensible. Constantine’s suicide is just a loud bang.
The set is a plywood box. The stage is empty. There are no props; not even a seagull. The actors, dressed casually in gray and barefoot, sit on plastic chairs with their backs to the audience. Konstantin’s play was completely shortened. In Anya Reiss’s version, production begins just as the performance of his play has finished. Another novelty is that the actors play charades. Why not music chairs?
Konstantin (Daniel Monks), the unsuccessful playwright, remains an oddly uncomfortable outsider the whole time. Emilia Clarke, who won many awards for her portrayal of the Dragon Queen game of ThronesShe makes her West End debut as Nina, the woman he loves. Nina is much livelier than usual.
The dying Sorin (Robert Glenister) and the cynical Doctor Dorn (Gerald Kyd) are greatly reduced in this version. Shamrayev (Jason Barnett) and Masha (Sophie Wu) have a greater impact because they have more leeway to be funny in a modern way.
Indira Varma as Arkadina, Constantine’s mother, is particularly good at absurdly flattering Trigorin, played by Tom Rhys Harries as her very young and immature toy boy.
Robert Tanitch reviews Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London
Source link Robert Tanitch reviews Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London