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.