Edinburgh International Festival 2001
THE SEAGULL: by Anton Chekhov, translated into German by Ilma Rakusa
Burgtheater, Vienna at King’s Theatre, Edinburgh To 1 September
Runs 3hrs 5mins One interval
TICKETS 0131 473 2000
Review Timothy Ramsden 30 August
This is a class act: Luc Bondy’s production breathes the kind of life with which Chekhov’s
first great interpreter Stanislavski astonished Moscow audiences a century ago.
He did so through a wealth of lifelike detail. And that’s here in Jutta Lampe’s old-style actress
Arkadina, her auburn hair topping a silky cream top and striking beige skirt, yet underplaying the
extravert character the costume suggests to achieve a perfect balance.
Supremely it’s in Gert Voss as Trigorin, the burnt-out yet compulsive writer. Voss’s first line
is a muttered ‘Hm-Hmm’, through clenched teeth clamped around his pipe. The pipe stays put
through a lot of what he has to say. As Trigorin’s affair with the impressionable young Nina
grows, the two slide into each other, Voss casually sharing her seat then spreading an arm behind
her, Johanna Wokalek’s vulnerably innocent Nina later collapsing into him. It’s a shock when this
country girl returns two years later matured into a woman.
Bondy provides beautiful visual detail, as in the way Trigorin neatly lays out the seagull shot
by young Konstantin; done with apparent loving care it’s actually the self-absorbed action of the
writer aesthetically examining an exhibit.
Fine work from others too, including Ignaz Kirchner’s sprightly old doctor Dorn, and
Gertraud Jesserer as Polina, whose longing for Dorn never leaves her less than efficient in her
work. Maria Hengge plays Masha, another young person with a hopeless love, as a loser from the
start, vacant-eyed and slovenly, then springs a surprise in the final act when her loveless marriage
seems to have smartened her up no end.
That said, the production does not outclass the two recent ones from the RSC, which
provided as much detail and did not suffer from the kind of over-assertive set with which Gilles
Aillaud lumbers the Viennese.