The Seagull - 24 June 2015 Review

Why don't all stages have mirrors?!

I can imagine that adapting a classic Chekhov for a modern day stage is probably quite a daunting task but I have to say I was totally enamoured with Matthew Dunster and Troben Bett's new version of The Seagull. This may well be the first time that I have properly enjoyed a Chekov without some level of endurance for cultures sake!

Cast of The Seagull

MIRROR. Yes. That was my first thought when taking my seat at the ever beautiful Regents Park Open Air Theatre. A) what a fantastic setting for this piece which is largely set in the grounds of a country estate and B) Jon Bausor’s design for the space is genuinely fantastic. What could be more enjoyable than watching whole scenes reflected above stage adding a bird’s eye (SEAGULLS EYE) perspective on goings on? Nothing. Except maybe the fact that Bausor has built a genuine on stage lake (complete with skinny dipping) as well as constructing a surprise water feature. I have to say, Bausor’s work made the act of physically watching this piece a real delight!

The cast were delightful; Janie Dee skipped gaily around as the vain Irina Arkadina, Alex Robertson brooded and flexed egotistically as her love interest, Trigorin, Sabrina Bartlett was beautifully doe eyed and naïve as Nina, Matthew Tennyson was amusingly both petulant and passionate and there was some fabulous background work from Colin Hoult as the overlooked teacher, Simon Medviedenko as well as Tom Greaves and Tara D’Arquian as estate workers.

Matthew Tennyson as Konstantin

Dunster makes some joyous directorial decisions, my favourite of which was the over dramatic performance of Konstantin’s play, expertly performed with conviction by Bartlett as Nina. Similarly I loved his work in drawing out the narcissist in pretty much everyone; the voice over sections were a stroke of genius!

Lisa Diveney as Masha and Janie Dee as Irina Photo Johan Persson

The shift in moods between the first half and the second half of the production was both intense and unsettling. From laugh out loud moments played on top of lush green grass to drama amid oppressive wooden slats, it was quite clear that the bohemian days were over. The juxtaposition between Acts certainly works to dramatise the climax of Chekhov’s tragedy although I couldn’t help but feel deeper foreboding could have been peppered in the lighter scenes to prepare me for the shift.

Despite being almost 3 hours long, I felt totally engaged in this beautifully designed and gleefully performed Chekhov adaptation and would highly recommend giving it a watch.

24 June 2015, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre