Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Seagull @ The Lowry, 23.02.2014

If you love Russian literature then you must catch the fantastic Library Theatre production of The Seagull, directed by Chris Honer, a contemporary adaptation by Anya Reiss that appeals to modern audiences but also stays faithful to Anton Chekhov’s original play. If tales of unrequited love and emotional existential angst are your thing, especially ones that aren’t too abstract, then this is for you.

The play explores the creative nature of theatre, writing and acting through characters who are madly passionate about their artistic vocations and efforts; we get real insight into what it means to be a writer and an actor. These artistic types are not happy though, and early on in the play we learn about their discontented auras, as well as their romantic souls and dramatic personalities.

Soon we are introduced to a play within a play put on by Konstantin (Ben Allen) and the object of his unrequited love Nina (Sophie Robinson). Allen plays the conflicted and tortured artist brilliantly, whilst Robinson shines in her role as the naïve, earnest, star-struck aspiring actress. The play within a play is hilariously portrayed as innovative and experimental in contrast to more traditional notions of theatre.

Before we even meet her we learn about Konstantin’s difficult relationship with his mother, as we witness in his rant about her being “a psychological marvel” who is “talented and compassionate to everyone” but him. He dismisses her angrily because he sees her as having high and mighty thoughts about the nature of art, as though she deems herself a “guardian of culture and humanity!” Konstantin especially resents the arrival of his mother’s famous writer boyfriend Trigorin (Graeme Hawley). Trigorin may be no Tolstoy but still he is popular, especially with the wide-eyed and easily impressed Nina, much to Konstantin’s fury.

The designer, Judith Croft, has created a wonderful backdrop of pale water against the island, with signs of a storm brewing. The stage transitions to show indoors and outdoors, as well as the changes over four years, are conducted in smooth perfection thanks to the shrewd direction of Honer.

The play is essentially about middle-class artistic types, who are rather unhappy in themselves, seeking success, love and validation. A wonderful way for Chris Honer to bow out as Artistic Director, the Seagull is a great adaptation of a classic play and well worth watching.

Words: Sadia Habib

Images: Jonathan Keenan

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