It’s a bit hard to portray a country estate in a seminar room but the set here is lovely: a classy white garden table with red drapes at the back and fairy lights that make the blackouts seem beautifully romantic. I also liked the piles of suitcases at the edges- a practical choice but also a reminder of the characters’ desire to move on.
Not having the budget for nineteenth-century Russian outfits, the characters are all costumed according to their
personalities. Arkadina (Jessica Coomber) wear an array of glittery blouses and Coomber more than matches this
showiness. She is every inch the woman who can play any part except that of mother to Konstantin. A nice touch regarding costume is giving Medvedenko (Laurence Hussain), the pining schoolteacher, oversized glasses identical to
those of his love Masha (Miranda Chance)- showing the audience that maybe these people would be good for each other. But in the world of Chekhov, requited love is all but impossible: Masha pines after Konstantin, who pines after ingénue actress Nina (Emma Clements) who is struck by writer Trigorin (Steven Dodd) who finally ends this line by seemingly returning her affections.
The Seagull is a tragicomedy and it demands a lot from the actors, who have to balance pathos with humour. Storey had a tough job in playing Konstantin, who considers himself to be a romantic Hamlet-like figure,but he manages to balance the comedy of Konstantin’s grand conceptions of his ‘art’ with the pathos of him being denied love. He looks like a lost little boy; perhaps there’s a little bit of Hamlet there after all.
Clements’ characterisation of Nina feels spot on. She looks fresh and light, but hungry for success- no wonder Trigorin compares her to a hunted seagull. Campus would have provided many a seagull to shoot for a prop but director Beth Welsh goes for an effective symbolic replacement. If you meet Trigorin, that’s basically what you become as Dodd conveys a man who sees everything as a subject for one of his short stories but “if you have read Tolstoy or Zola you
won’t read Trigorin”.
The supporting cast make a nice contrast to the luvvie characters. Hussain is adorably devoted and Chance still makes Masha likeable, even with her snuff habit and alcoholism. Rathbone is suitably mellow as Sorin approaches the end of his life. I’d also like to mention Charlie Seddon, who plays Dorn. Most of his character has been cut but Seddon still manages to show Dorn’s ambivalent admiration of Konstantin.
A full-length version would have been wonderful but there is something quite sweet about its brevity. The Seagull is a classic, whatever form you see it in.