The Seagull at the Pack and Carriage
Staging a major work of Anton Chekhov is a perilous task, but a guaranteed crowd-puller, and therefore a Broadway staple. But bring it to a small traditional pub behind Euston station, arrange a few chairs around a table, and give the actors free rein of the bar, and you have Chekhov like you’ve never experienced it before. You become a fly on the wall in Sorin’s estate.
The Seagull is a classic tragi-comedy, a jumble-sale of relationships and longing. If it can be condensed at all, the plot is as follows: troubled young writer Konstantin lives in the shadow of successful writer Trigorin, lover of his steely mother Arkadina and love object of local girl Nina, with whom Konstantin is in love. As a counterpoint to their artistic inclinations, the increasingly unwell Sorin, whose estate they are all visiting, is struggling with purpose and fulfilment as a former civil servant. Managers of the estate Shamryev and Polina fail to tame their self-destructive daughter Masha, who is in love with Konstantin, despite bumbling teacher Medvedenko being head-over-heels for her.
It’s exhausting to follow, yet captivating. The incessant pace propels a complex web of desire, which unveils an absurd face of the human condition: the relentlessness of striving. Be it an artistic desire or desire for another person, the characters are all chasing what they haven’t got, and what others have, every minor achievement giving way to another set of challenges in a bottomless dig for liberation.
In this cosy pub, the setting has been shifted into the 1960s by director Vince Gill. The script stays largely true to the original, with deviations into more contemporary references and an awareness of the audience. The breaking of the third wall emphasises insecurities and longing for acceptance. The main exponents of the “immersive theatre” element are writers Konstantin and Trigorin, it proving a useful tool for revealing naked inner thoughts.
The cast are exceptional in capturing the fragility that bubbles under the surface, with a particularly enthralling performance by John Jesper as Trigorin. Whilst trying to seduce him away from the young Nina, Arkadina is sat on Trigorin’s lap, embracing him and smothering him with kisses. At this point Trigorin turns to the audience and deadpans the line; “I have no will of my own.” The delivery is pinpoint and thus captures the entire spirit of Chekhov’s original script.
The Seagull is on at the Pack and Carriage from 4th until 26th April 2016, for further information visit here. Tickets can be purchased on the door.