Anton Chekhov is renowned the world over for his innovative approach in portraying the darker side of life on stage. Yet, the very first production of The Seagull in 1896 was actually by no means an outright success. It was tremendously under-rehearsed and disliked by the audience. So fraught was to become Chekhov that he didn’t write for quite a while thereafter. Unlike that premiere production, however, the Acting Gymnasium’s heartfelt version directed by Gavin McAlinden certainly wasn’t an unprepared disaster! It was much the opposite.
The Seagull revolves around a young playwright, called Konstantin (elegantly played by Max Euston), who aspires to spark great social change in the world through his writing. He lives in the shadow of his mother (Leena Makoff) and her lover Trigorin (Jared Denner). Life becomes an unbearable harsh existence for Konstantin as his mother and Trigorin seem to place more endless, insuperable problems in his path. This is poignantly embodied by the dead seagull which Konstantin later presents on stage. All the while, the play takes place in and around Sorin’s (Yasir Senna) estate. And it is Sorin who truly brings the play to life as he presents a light wit and peculiar charm to this version. This standout performance softens the blow of the tragic reality of Konstantin’s ultimate fate.
The set itself is basic and bare. As this is a play which is all about the power of theatre and writing, the stylistic choice to minimise props and set actually emphasises the plays emotive message. In addition to the plain stage, the costumes were modern and allowed a wider audience to relate to the story. We can imagine great playwrights of the future having these very thoughts themselves now; by keeping the visuals simple the audience was able to grasp the essence of what Chekov wanted people to understand about life and therefore relate this to the present day.
The play has four acts and was just under two hours in total length. Nevertheless, it doesn’t feel at all rushed since this version draws in the audience and gives a new lease of life to this classic play. This version is fresh and allows the audience a fleeting chance of grasping the essence of Chekhov and his approach to the theatre. The powerful ending comes as a shock because of the unexpected loud gunshot. This emotive play exemplifies the Chekhovian existential dilemma which is all too much for Konstantin. The Seagull highlights Chekhov’s talent for combing tragedy with tongue in cheek comedy. Gavin McAlinden and The Acting Gymnasium did a great job at bringing Chekhov’s The Seagull to the Theatro Technis in Camden. It was a pleasant piece to watch and enjoy.