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The Seagull, Theatro Technis

Anton Chekhov

Directed by Gavin McAlinden
★★★
Pros: A terrific Chekhov script with some interesting performances.
Cons: This show has plenty of moments which fall flat and are not quite believable.
Our Verdict: An unusual production of a classic play which tends to be a bit samey elsewhere. It’s certainly nice to see these characters getting a revamp.
Courtesy of Theatro Technis
Much as I love The Seagull, it is one of those plays I’ve seen once too often. Chekhov is undoubtedly a genius, yet I need to be in the mood for his particular brand of doom and gloom. That said, what is good about this production is the unusual casting which certainly feels refreshing. Whether or not Chekhov would approve of the director’s choices is another issue.
The central character of The Seagull is Konstantin who is a struggling playwright dealing with an overbearing mother and unrequited feelings for his friend Nina. He is emotionally unstable to begin with – insecure from his mother’s questionable parenting – but a negative reaction to his play teamed with his romantic difficulties push him over the edge. Alexander Neal brings suitable sensitivity to the role and his love for Nina is palpable. Nina is beautifully played by Emily Florence Hutchings making it easy to see why Konstantin would be so smitten with her.
A lot of his problems are caused by the playwright Trigorin, who is both his mother’s lover and the object of Nina’s affections. I enjoyed David Weinberg’s disconnected portrayal, delivered in a languid American accent. He seems to be almost entirely focused on his writing, viewing the people around him as nothing more than material for his plays. His painfully ego-centric partner, Arkadina, is played by Rosalind Blessed who made a number of unusual yet effective choices. I’ve seen many whiney, needy Arkadinas over the years but, thankfully, this interpretation is entirely different. Blessed’s character does not doubt herself in any way either as a person, an actress or a great beauty. The irritating enquiries she makes – like asking people who looks younger as she stands beside a 22 year old – felt more like a self-centred joke than a demonstration of genuine insecurity. This Arkadina doesn’t really need our approval; she just craves our constant attention. The reaction to her son’s attempted suicide felt more like concern for her own potential grief than a genuine interest in the boy’s serious battle with depression. Similarly, her seduction of Trigorin as he tries to leave her for Nina felt more like a need to win the game rather than a pathetic, desperate attempt to hold on to love, which is the route most actresses seem to take in that scene.
Theatro Technis is a perfect space for a 19th century Russian play and although there is no set to speak of, the high ceilings and heavy parquet floor are all that is required to create the right kind of mood. The costumes are not quite authentic but I think that was exactly the point. The intention seemed to be a nod to the era rather than full on period. Nina looked particularly beautiful and ethereal in a silk waterfall dress, which felt perfect for the seagull symbolism in the play. Her hair flows in thick, soft waves down her back. Similarly, Arkadina looked like a beautiful bride with tidily coiffured hair and a long white dress. This seemed apt considering Arkadina’s ability to be the centre of attention in almost any given situation, no matter how inappropriate it might be. Interestingly, the long-suffering Masha is all in black, as is Konstantin, sipping whiskey and musing on unrequited love with a lovely Irish lilt.
Overall, this is a flawed production but it is certainly worth a look, particularly considering its unusual interpretations and choices. Theatro Technis is a nice space in a great area and is certainly worthy of our support.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

The Seagull runs in rep with A Month in the Country at Theatro Technis until 13th April 2013.
Box Office: 0207 387 6617 or book online at http://www.theatrotechnis.com/show.php?id=99

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