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The Seagull - Headlong - On Tour

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#1 Cardinal Pirelli

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 09:36 PM

I hope others have seen this, I'd highly recommend it, a great new translation that gives the sort of jolts that audiences in Chekhov's day would have experienced, excellent performances throughout and an intriguing and nicely integrated design.

It's such a painful play to observe and, coupled with seeing Ibsen's 'Public Enemy' in the evening (see that thread for comment on that), one that left me despairing for the world both personally and politically. My fault for booking both for the same day!

It is, however, as humane an exploration of life as you could imagine in this production. I'd put it alongside the Dillane/Roach Young Vic 'Uncle Vanya' as one of my favourite Chekhov productions.

#2 Honoured Guest

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 09:51 PM

I saw it last week. I thought the most prominent element was the direction, which is fully integrated with the design, as you say. Also, the lighting in the final, fourth act is exquisite, and again is part of the integrated design. I didn't experience the acting as uniformly excellent, I think because the play is presented in such an intellectual way and I thought some performances were perfect within the context of this particular production whereas others seemed less fully committed to this idiosyncratic direction. This was the first play I'd seen directed by the highly praised Blanche McIntyre. Does she approach all productions in the same way as this, and with what outcomes?

I agree that I'd also recommend it, because it's so unusual and thoroughly considered and executed, but I'm not altogether sure that I really liked it.

#3 Cardinal Pirelli

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 09:58 PM

I'm interested as to what you mean by 'an intellectual way', I just found it emotionally devastating and the performances very real (and, yes, there is some variation in performances on the edges but the central characters were, for me, all strong, Arkadina, the old guys, Nina, Konstantin, Trigorin).

#4 Nicholas

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 10:17 PM

When you say you saw this earlier, do you mean the Richmond matinee, because if so we were in the same audience!  Shame there wasn't that big an audience, because I found this an unfussy and clear version of the play.  I suppose I'd agree that it was the direction that made this, but only because it let the play speak for itself without gimmickry or the like.  That said, I really liked the translation - I lived with Hingley and Frayn for a long time but I thought Donneley's modernisation was completely in the spirit of the play, modernised without modernisation for the sake of modernisation.  The swearing was colloquial, as it were, and the most important speeches about theatres and seagulls were Chekhovian but twenty-first century.  I felt the intellectualism as presented by Trigorin and Konstantin was always second to the emotional force of the characters, but it connected on both levels.  I'd really struggle to pick faults in this one.  Mainly, I really liked the unfussiness.  Nothing detracted from Chekhov.

Similarly, I was at the Arcola's Sons Without Fathers on Tuesday and if anyone's able to see that do, because Platonov is a vastly inferior play in the original but there is clearly a great work buried there and this makes a great case.  Less intellectual and far more emotional and lusty, it connects strikingly and there's little in the way of faults (with Platonov, the pronunciation of plat-AWN-ov is a little mixed but that's about it).  And for anyone so minded, I notice that Jermyn Street are doing (as translated by Frayn) Chekhov's comic shorts, so that's a must for the likes of me.

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 10:25 PM

I'm used to Chekhov productions where the actors just play their characters and the audience gets naively involved with the characters' stories, dependent on the quality of the acting. This production seemed to be foregrounding all the themes and structure of the play, which the average audience member could well not notice in a usual "English acting" production. I thought the most successful actors were those able to both honour this direction and also deliver an emotional performance within this pointed frame. The least successful actors seemed to be obeying orders by pointing up the themes and structure, but couldn't manage to convincingly portray real characters at the same time. I really liked Pearl Chanda (Nina) and Alexander Cobb (Konstantin) in particular.

#6 Cardinal Pirelli

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 10:27 PM

Yes, the Richmond this afternoon. I was near the front in the stalls. I hadn't thought about 'Sons Without Fathers', I'll give it a look.

#7 Coated peanut

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 11:25 PM

Sons without Fathers at the Arcola is an excellent version (unless you only accept purist interpretations that adhere to the full text) and I thought the cast was pretty impressive. It got quite a few 4 star reviews

#8 mallardo

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 05:59 AM

Yet another translation where the "translator" decided not just to change the dialogue - I haven't heard so many F words in a theatre since the last David Mamet play  -  but change the characters as well.  Hence we have an evening spent with a bunch of trivial self-obsessed petit-bourgeois fools who barely warrant our attention.  The situation is not helped by a cast of bad actors - although I agree that the Kostya is an exception here.  But faced with the director's interpretation of their roles it's hard to blame them too much. The low point certainly came in Act 3 when Arkadina reclaimed her hold over Trigorin by getting the brooding writer to masturbate while she cooed words of praise to his "prowess" in his ear.  Chekhov it ain't.
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#9 Honoured Guest

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 01:23 PM

It's a version, not a translation. I thought the writing and direction/design were true to Chekhov's play. The scene you mention, featuring Irina and Boris, is a good example of how this play and production operate by making clear the exact purpose of Irina's speech to Boris and how it works upon him. The point of the action is to illuminate the text, which it does very clearly. This approach is consistent throughout the production. When characters walk along planks or rise and fall on seesaws, or draw on the back wall, the audience isn't meant to see natural behaviour but to understand the play! The lighting plot also serves the text throughout, and doesn't create realistic settings.

#10 mallardo

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 04:26 PM

The play is not a puzzle.  It is not difficult to interpret or understand. It works perfectly well in Chekhov's "version".  To me the director's tricks got in the way of understanding.  The silly anachronisms (the horses!) and contemporary jargon and stale one-liners undercut the characters and MADE THEM A PUZZLE. I prefer a director whose intent is to serve the play - not the reverse.
Excuse me if I seem jejune
I promise I'll find my marbles soon.





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