SONG OF THE SEAGULL
book by Linnie Reedman music by Joe Evans.
The Menier Gallery 51 Southwark Street SE1 1RU To 31 March 2012.
Thu-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thurs & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 08444 771000.
Review: William Russell 15 March.
The bird shouldn’t have sung.
Somewhere, buried deep it has to be said under a clutch of truly terrible songs, lies a potentially rather interesting play. Writers are often inspired by events in their own lives, and here we see young Anton Chekhov, a doctor who has written some amusing newspaper pieces and is building a reputation as a writer, holidaying with some friends on the Volga. The events of that summer may well have inspired some of what was to come, notably The Seagull.
The problem with Linnie Reedman’s play-come-musical is that the focus shifts from one character to another and Chekhov, for a large chunk of the evening, is irrelevant. Instead we follow the ridiculous passions of Nina, a kind of Russian Madame Bovary, as she seeks the “original”, ignores Osip, her devoted doctor husband, and embarks on a love affair with a possibly second-rate painter called Zac.
Well, to be honest, a thoroughly second-rate painter judging by one of his paintings we get to see at a climactic moment.
Performances are fine and the Menier Gallery, a handsome basement room next door to the Chocolate Factory, makes a decent playing space, although director Linnie Reedman has chosen some odd locations for the cast to act from. Never forget sightlines.
As Nina, a woman who really should have had her bottom smacked by her husband and given lots of children to occupy her time, Lindsey Crow is splendidly irritating, Raphael Verrion is dashing as the caddish Zac, and Persia Lawson is very alluring as Vera Kommisarevskaya, a would-be actress whose greatest role was to be that of Nina in the play Chekhov eventually wrote.
Maybe Chekhov said all there was to be said, and the songs, which should not have been there in the first place, should be ditched immediately, but Ms Reedman should go back and start rewriting as there is something there – placing Chekhov, a rather tortured Steven Clarke, while remaining an observer, more centrally to the goings-on would help.
Vasily: Max Krupski.
Anton: Steven Clarke.
Vera: Persia Lawson.
Osip: Nicholas Gauci.
Nina: Lindsey Crow.
Zac: Raphael Verrion.
Lydia/Masha: Claire-Monique Martin.
Director: Linnie Reedman.
Designer: Belle Mundi.
Lighting: David Palmer.
Music Director: Joe Evans.
Choreographer: Alyssa Noble.