Review – The Seagull

Tuesday 6 February 2007

The Segull at the Royal Court

Pressure was on the whingers last night when they dropped in to the Royal Court to see the final production under the artistic directing of Ian Rickson.

Christopher Hampton’s new adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s classic play The Seagull boasts a starry cast and a flock of excellent reviews. Could they possibly be disappointed?

Chekhov’s play famously opens with Masha (Katherine Parkinson) asked:”Why do you always wear black?”Andrew believes that her response is one of the all time great comedy lines in the history of the theatre: “I’m in mourning for my life.” Who wouldn’t laugh? Andrew duly guffawed, but from the rest of the audience there was not a titter.

Which underlines the main problem with this production. The characters are The Seagull are so self-pitying or self-absorbed that it really is funny. But not in this turgid, painfully languid production.

Kristin Scott Thomas played self-centred successful actress Arkadina with a glacial demeanour but drew little humour from a role which has much comic potential. Mackenzie Crook’s Konstantin looked the part but drifted across the stage seemingly in a trance.

Ex-Corrie actress Denise Black tried to get something out of it, working hard with a bunch of flowers and wearing a grey plait with aplomb. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Trigorin injected some much needed energy into his scene with Carey Mulligan’s Nina before the interval.

The lighting and design didn’t help A heavy wooden floored design (which created its own problem as the actors clumped noisily around) with the obligatory Chekhov clapboard and silver birches provided a space for the cast to wander around and stare significantly into the distance. We did begin to wonder if the whole thing was a big send-up.

Phil is partial to a bit of Chekhov in the right circumstances, and can cope with a dose of melancholia, but this was, well, just too Chekhovian.

Thankfully the evening did feature one moment of high comedy. During the interval Phil bumped into an acquaintance who also happens to be a writer for one of the nationals.

  • Phil: ( in a stage whisper) I don’t think we’ll be bothering with the second half!
  • Writer: (indicating his companion) This is the director.

How we laughed.

PS: Memo to incoming Artistic Director Dominic Cooke: Is selling popcorn in the Royal Court bar really a good idea? Andrew got very annoyed because the woman in the seat next to him kept rustling her bag and it kept waking him up.


4 Responses to “Review – The Seagull”

  1. biped Says:

    Gah. Carey Mulligan has been taken to hospital with appendicitis and had been replaced with an actress who had not time to learn her lines yet, which meant she had to use the text on stage at all times.

    Of course she is a terribly good sport for trying to fill in and somesuch kind thoughts, but the result was a dire, dire play. There was hardly any energy at all on stage, with Crook slinking around as if he’d taken all his valerian in one go and the new actress taking insipidness to new heights.

    The other actors were rather good, but couldn’t make up for the void created by Nina and Constantine.

  2. We’re devastated that we missed that, biped. Sounds like just the kind of car crash theatrical event that makes us sit up and pay attention.

    To be honest, there wasn’t much energy the night we saw it either so don’t feel too cheated.

  3. […] well these days. He’s currently represented by his lauded (though not by us) version of The Seagull at the Royal Court and a revival of his Total Eclipse at the wonderful Menier Chocolate Factory will soon be with us. […]

  4. Christopher Says:

    Yes, the main challenge for any production, and it sounds like it was a challenge for his one, is making the characters likeable. While they’re probably & understandably depressed, we should never see them give into it. They struggle mightily, and that’s why we root for them. For a fuller treatement/analysis of this play, see:

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