The Seagull

Chekhov’s darkly comic masterpiece is reignited for the 21st century by Anya Reiss,

A successful actress visits her brother’s isolated estate far from the city, throwing the frustrated residents unfulfilled ambitions into sharp relief. As her son attempts to impress with a self-penned play, putting much more than his pride at stake, others dream of fame, love and the ability to change their past.

Directed by Russell Bolam


**** Guardian

Chekhov’s tragicomedy transposed to the Isle of Man in the 21st century? It sounds like a Seagull that should get stuffed – but in fact it soars in this spritely new version by Anya Reiss, directed with the lightest of touches by Russell Bolam.

This may be the most modern take on the play we’ve seen yet: Ben Moor’s absurd, heartbreaking Medvedenko moans about the cost of his mobile phone contract, and Joseph Drake’s damaged Konstantin makes his final intentions clear by taking it out on his own mobile phone. But its great strength is that it feels both slap up-to-date and completely timeless. Malcolm Tierney’s compassionate Sorin could have been dozing in this sunlit garden on the edge of the lake for a century or more.

The production may not have the bracing radicalism of Benedict Andrews’ recent Three Sisters, but although it is quieter and more naturalistic, it is no less compelling, scratching at the scab of the characters’ dissatisfactions and their elusive quest for happiness. Reiss and Bolam ensure we recognize these people and really get to know them: the spiky, self-harming Masha (Emily Dobbs, who is fantastic); the neglectful, ageing yummy mummy, Arkadina, played with charisma by Sasha Waddell; and most impressive of all, Lily James’s captivatingly fragile teenage Nina, who, from her first entrance, never seems to know what to do with her hands. The production is meticulous, but appears effortless. Only Matthew Kelly’s Dorn feels as if he might have walked out of a more traditional, actorly revival.

There are moments when the conversational delivery leads to inaudibility, and it is probably worth arriving early to get a seat in the central block. But in a year of remarkable Chekhov revivals, this Seagull flies with the best.

Venue

Southwark Playhouse

Cast

Lily James
Matthew Kelly
Malcolm Tierney
Michael Beckley
Emily Dobbs
Joseph Drake
Julia St. John
Ben Moor
Sasha Waddell
Anthony Howell