by Anton Chekhov and The Factory.
The Factory Theatre Tour.
Performance info www.thefactorytheatre.co.uk
Runs 2hr 20min No interval.
Review: Mark Courtice 16th August 2009 at St Luke’s Church, Holloway London N7.
Fresh, funny – this fascinating treatment of a classic is still very moving.
The Factory’s creative method keeps classics fresh. A company of actors takes a work and gets under its skin. At each performance they take on a role, according to chance, and then improvise (using inspiration from the venue, and props loaned by the audience).
But this isn’t an acting game; it requires immersion in the original, rigour, integrity and quick wits. It exposes the best in actors and any technical weaknesses; also, it must be very hard work.
Subjecting The Seagull, Chekhov’s tragi-comedy of actors, writers and hopeless love to this technique is hugely enlightening and fun. Characters zing into life, the structure is clear and the unpretentious style makes Chekhov’s comedy funny while the whole is very moving.
Each performance is literally tailor-made – to this venue, this audience, this cast, so this one won’t be the same as the next.
Astonishingly the pick-and-mix casting works. The company’s theatrical self-control (disguised by their laid-back style) ensures that the performances next time, by whoever, will be as touching as Marianne’s Daughter, as beguiling as Leila’s Actress, as moving as Laura’s Girl and as hopeless as Colin’s Brother. This is real acting.
This time they played the first half outdoors in a church garden, instantly making it Chekhov’s – referring to the dappled light, seizing on leaves as metaphors.
For the second half we moved our seats indoors, and a whole new relationship between actors and audience meant we made the most of a stunning scene between the Actress and the Writer. If the pace slackened and concentration wavered between tired actors (and audience) in the last two scenes, by then we were immersed.
The Factory’s oddness is further demonstrated by their marketing. They don’t know where they’re playing until a couple of weeks before; they only announce on their web site, or through e-mail. Finding a show is worth the effort, though, and joining their audience feels like joining a community. They play their Hamlet in York next month and may be going to New York. If they come anywhere near you on their way, try to catch them.
The Actress Leila.
The Brother Colin.
The Son Steve.
The Bailiff Paul.
The Bailiff’s Wife Liz.
The Daughter Marianne.
The Teacher Steff.
The Servant Maddie.
The Writer John.
The Girl Laura.
The Doctor Scott.
We only get to know the actors by their first names, for clues to the rest go to www.thefactorytheatre.co.uk
Director Tim Carroll