Tag Archives: Chekhov

The Seagull – 2.5 Stars


The Seagull

Lion & Unicorn Theatre

Reviewed – 12th June 2018


“basics like vocal projection, coarse acting and stilted pacing let down its avant-garde aspirations”


In ‘The Seagull’, considered the first of his great works, Anton Chekhov was evidently reacting to his publisher’s advice that he should start to put quality above quantity. In the play, Trigorin (Robert Anthony) is also a prolific and successful writer, who embodies Chekhov’s industrious approach, when he says, ‘Day and night I am held in the grip of one besetting thought, to write, write, write!’ Arkadina (played in Alison Steadman style by Ciara Pounchett) is drawn to Trigorin’s fame, clinging not only to him, but to success, money and to maintaining her own youthful image. She visits her brother, Peter Sorin (Monty Lloyd), withering away on his country estate devoid of any such object of desire, to watch Konstantin (Dominic Debartolo), her son from a previous relationship, who attempts and fails to impress her, along with the rest of the gathering, with his own experimental theatre.

Thus, the themes of celebrity, acceptance, rejection, the yearning for love and affirmation become intertwined, and it’s the aspiring actress Nina, who compares these ineluctable forces to the drift of seagulls toward the lake on the estate. Konstantin, frustrated in love and raging at the complacency of the establishment, then shoots the eponymous seabird, ironically handing Trigorin inspiration for yet another book, the plot for which sounds very similar to the one we are watching.

Chekhov’s style is slow, layered, open to parody and fringe productions are not for the risk averse. Folding the country house vistas of Sorin’s estate into a room above a pub is a grim challenge and a ‘sexual, provocative and mind blowing modern interpretation’ is hardly guaranteed to convey the play’s elusive truths. Still, Theatre Collection’s founder Victor Sobchak was imprisoned for six months by the KGB for staging Jesus Christ Superstar in Russia, so is not unfamiliar with courage, or indeed small spaces. The set is accordingly basic, furnished with whatever is available from whatever period. The dialogue is adapted with familiar English idioms, with Sorin declaring himself ‘knackered’ and Konstantin reacting to Nina with ‘my arse’, but Masha and Medvedenko’s relationship (Sadie Pepperrell and Simon D’Aquino) seems diminished played only as bickering antagonists.

There are audacious ideas that work brilliantly, such as the unrequested blow job which both halts Trigorin’s drift towards Nina and clarifies Arkadina’s ruthless control. But Konstantin’s audacious accent did nothing to advance comprehension. Dominic Debartolo looked fine as the rebel creative, with eyeliner and shapeless black coat, but although his atonal cockney may have been intended to remind us of his father’s suspect roots, its random vowels and stresses meant it did so constantly.

There is a wonderful sense of abandon about Victor Sobchak’s back catalogue, with Theatre Collection being his third Anglo Russian theatre company. This collaboration with fellow Director Chris Diacopolous combines adventure and experience, but basics like vocal projection, coarse acting and stilted pacing let down its avant-garde aspirations. That advice about quality and quantity still holds.


Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by Victor Schobak


The Seagull

Lion & Unicorn Theatre until 17th June


Previously reviewed at this venue
Feel | ★★★★★ | March 2018
Feel / More | ★★★★ | March 2018


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com



The Seagull – 3 Stars


The Seagull

Theatro Technis

Reviewed – 24th April 2018


“an enjoyable watch, however, there was something left to be had from Gavin McAlinden’s direction”

Chekhov has been a source of endless inspiration for actors and directors over the hundred-plus years since the premiere of his first play, ‘The Seagull’. In the last week a new film adaptation premiered at the Tribeca film festival starring Saoirse Ronan, Annette Bening and Elisabeth Moss, giving this 19th century classic a Hollywood makeover. And why not? By focusing on actors, authors, playwrights and the theatre making itself, who’s to say whether this play will ever stop being interpreted?

Although an ensemble piece, the play charts the relations of Irina Arkadina (Leena Makoff), her lover the celebrated author Trigorin (Jared Denner), a nineteen year old neighbour Nina (Nathalie Prange) and Irina’s son Konstantin (Max Easton), who is helpless at gaining attention from either of the women he craves.

Chekhov’s plays were a change from the melodrama being produced at the time. Most of the action is not seen, either taking place offstage or between scenes – it is the way the characters react which is meaningful as opposed to the action itself. However, in this version, the performances felt slightly disjointed, as though the individual contributors were not connected in their interpretation.

Prange as Nina gave an enticing performance as a dewy-eyed, love-struck youth mesmerised by Trigorin whilst Makoff’s larger than life portrayal of the aging actress Arkadina was marvellously audacious. However, there seemed to be a slight hesitation from some of the other actors in their commitment to character.

For a play often described as a tragicomedy, the laughs were underserved, coming almost exclusively from two characters. Yasir Senna as Sorin, Konstantin’s uncle and the host of the summer gatherings, was refreshing with a jovial and mischievous manner providing light relief. Alan Kenny as the school teacher Shamrayev drew the most laughs from his pitiful, pining goodbyes which were never returned by the rest of the house guests. Moments delivered by other characters that should have stirred a laugh were either heavy handed or glossed over too quickly.

As a play that celebrates the work of the theatre and artists, the set was rather lacklustre; with only a few coloured cloths hanging from the rafters at the back of the stage. The props and costume were much more convincing – my eye continuously being drawn back to the dead body of the seagull during its appearance on stage.

The production was an enjoyable watch, however, there was something left to be had from Gavin McAlinden’s direction to bring the piece into full harmony.


Reviewed by Amber Woodward


The Seagull

Theatro Technis until May 3rd


Running in repertory
The Misanthrope | ★★ | April 2018
A Midsummer’s Night Dream | ★★ |April 2018


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com