The Seagull at Theatro Technis
Acting Gymnasium is a group of people who meet weekly to discuss classical literature and performance. Their production of The Seagull is the result of their latest study of Anton Chekhov.
Chekhov is notoriously difficult to stage and direct, with his subtext-heavy, lengthy monologues and long periods of inaction. The characters are often subject to extremes of emotion, which can descend into painfully mawkish melodrama. Unfortunately this cast and production team walked right into both of these traps. This was first apparent in the bizarre seating arrangements in the first scene, when the play-within-a-play construct is used, and director Gavin McAlinden chose to seat his onstage audience with their backs to the real audience. Most of the interactions, dialogue and facial expressions in the scene came from this group onstage, and so the audience was limited to seeing only a quarter of what was going on.
The production was let down by easily rectified problems such as voice projection and articulation (resulting in a lot of lines being inaudible), as well as background conversation and action being un-choreographed. Rosalind Blessed as the plummy voiced, self-important actress Arkadina was an assured performer, and dominated the stage in her scenes. Unfortunately she was at the mercy of her director, who inexplicably staged one of her monologues as a rowdy sex scene. The audience was given no warning for this aggressive change in tone, and the moment managed to be incredibly uncomfortable and comical in equal parts.
Although there were some rare moments of actual comedy, they often jarred with the highly strung emotions in the rest of the scene. The attempts to extract humour from Chekhov’s lines reduced the action to pantomime at times, the play occupying an ambiguous space between being a modern, humorous adaptation and a traditional take on the Russian classic. However, Emily Florence Hutchings’ Nina was capricious, youthful and beautiful, and her final monologue was a courageous rally against the flaws in the rest of the production.
The group are clearly passionate about Chekhov and have no difficulties with understanding the nuances of the text – the shortcomings lie in the way they have chosen to convey them.
The Seagull is at Theatro Technis until 13th April 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.