by Anton Chekhov in a new version by John Donnelly.
Tour to 22 June 2013.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 April at Watford Palace.
A Seagull that’s no common tern.
Despite a laconic version of Seagull that excises detail – it’s only late on successful writer Boris Trigorin’s passion for fishing becomes clear – John Donnelly explores matters previous translations have failed to exploit. Is the dead bird presented to aspiring young actor Nina, and which ends-up (in a sense like, in a sense unlike, her) stuffed, a Seagull? An Arctic Tern? A Common Tern?
This is not routine Chekhov, but all the livelier. Decontextualising enhances matters as modern dress, speech and postures combine with Russian names. And ever-present servant Yakov seems to yearn for a career in graffiti, drawing luggage on a blank wall. Like the Three Sisters’s old servant Anfisa, his efforts offset the cultured class’s talk.
But a set consisting mainly of a bench, variously suggesting a seesaw or pier (where women queue-up to speak to Boris), and basic modern costumes mean the dynamics of events and relationships aren’t always supported visually. However, John Gielgud said a play’s best performance could happen when actors weren’t encumbered by externals.
This Seagull works best for those who know the play, being unusually attuned to nuance. It’s cast is superb. Nothing’s over-stated but arises out of characters’ lives – Colin Haigh with Petr (Sorin)’s declining health, including a sudden fall, Rudi Dharmalingam as the unassertive Semyon (Medvedenko), not seeking pity at being ignored or walking miles home in the rain.
Gyuri Sarossy and Abigail Cruttenden’s lovers live separate lives together; she just wants him around, he wants somewhere to drift, his desire for young Nina another aspect of Chekhov keeping events offstage (making the onstage middle-age sex here a rare false step).
The only event Chekhov shows (till it’s interrupted) is Konstantin’s play. His love for his actress “mummy”, as he still calls her, mixed with frustration, is caught within outer calm by Alexander Cobb. And no Masha has shown the debilitating effects of two years’ excessive alcohol and boredom than Jenny Rainsford. She’s not reached the end of the road to ruin, but a staging-post; the impact is more vivid.
As with so much in Blanche McIntyre’s occasionally perverse, ultimately brilliant production.
Yevgeny: David Beames.
Nina: Pearl Chanda.
Konstantin: Alexander Cobb.
Irina: Abigail Cruttenden.
Polina: Catherine Cusack.
Semyon: Rudi Dharmalingam.
Ilya: John Elkington.
Yakov: Eddie Eyre.
Petr: Colin Haigh.
Masha: Jenny Rainsford.
Boris: Gyuri Sarossy.
Director: Blanche McIntyre.
Designer/Costume: Laura Hopkins.
Lighting: Guy Hoare.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.
Assistant director: Jack Lowe.
23-27 Apr 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Watford Palace 01923 225671 www.watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk
1-11 May Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat 11 May 2.30pm Citizens’ Theatre Glasgow 0141 429 0022 www.citz.co.uk
14-18 May 7.30pm Mat Sat 2pm Northern Stage Newcastle-upon-Tyne 0191 230 5151 www.northernstage.co.uk
21-25 May Tue-Thu; Sat 7.30pm Fri 8pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1pm) Captioned Thu 2.30pm Oxford Playhouse 01865 305305 www.oxfordplayhouse.co.uk
29 May-1 June Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm Richmond Theatre 0844 871 7651 www.atgtickets.com/richmond
4-8 June Tue, Wed 7.30pm; Thu-Sat 8pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Bath 01225 448844 www.theatreroyal.org.uk
11-22 June Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Audi-described 19 June 7.30pm; 22 June 2.30pm BSL Signed 21 June Derby Theatre 01332 593939 www.derbytheatre.co.uk