Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Seagull - review

Written by: Peeny (@AdamPeeny)

Where's Peen been?
Southwark Playhouse, London
Was Peen keen?

Anya Reiss is arguably one of the most exciting new British playwrights, so it seems appropriate that she be the one to put a fresh spin on one of Chekhov’s masterpieces. It’s an enjoyable production that never quite takes flight; and at times, it comes close to a crash landing.

Photo: Ben Carpenter
As expected, it’s been modernised; Arkadina, a successful actress (expertly played by Sasha Waddell) has come to visit her brother – away from the City of London – Sorin (Malcolm Tierney) at his estate, making the local residents feel somewhat inferior on the basis of fulfillment. Hey son, Konstantin, has penned a play that he wants to show and by doing so, inflicts on his own pride and confidence. Regrettably, Reiss’ spin on this well-known play isn’t quite strong enough and at times fails to engage the audience that surrounds them.

Photo: Ben Carpenter
Waddell and Tierney are simply superb and deservedly steal the show. We’re presented with a wonderful array of characters but the potential outshines reality and sadly, they’re all a bit dry. There is very little excitement in the way of design, which especially in a Chekhov play, could be forgiven if gob-smacking performances were being delivered consistently. The lack of energy and medium-sized performance space makes things feel slightly claustrophobic, and I think some of the performance would have benefitted from different ideas than those of the director, Russell Bolam.

Thankfully, there are some moments of beauty that give the performance a second life. There are moments of hilarity, and the relationships between the characters, especially Arkadina and Konstantin, are strong and most loveable: we find ourselves hooked even in pure silence in one of the most affectionate scenes. When the characters are likeable, they’re very likeable; but not all of them were grasped with the tenderness that they demand. Trigorin, on that note, seemed more self-indulgent than evoking any sympathy at all.

Though this production might not deliver what you expect or desire, it’s absolutely worth a watch: it’ll be the topic of discussion for quite some time. There is a lot of substance, but this time, Reiss and her colleagues may have bitten off a tiny bit more than they can chew.   

This production runs until 1 December 2012. 

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