Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull is one of many classical plays which theatregoers should see; it is almost like not seeing Shakespeare’s Macbeth ever before. Luckily for me, I was back at Theatro Technis, having reviewed Moliere’s The Misanthrope last week (review here), to see the cast of Acting Gymnasium perform Chekhov’s tragicomedy.
Gavin McArlinden‘s minimal staging, and simple use of plastic stools, puts the spotlight on the cast – after all, the popularity of The Seagull is down to the complexity of its characters and Chekhov’s crafty dialogue. Yet, if one part of the play is badly executed, the rest of the production can fall apart.
The Seagull presents the internal struggles of four characters. The playwright, Konstantin (Max Easton), is emotionally torn by his unrequited love from the ingénue Nina (Natalie Prange) and rivalry with story writer, Trigorin (Jared Denner). Konstantin’s mother Irina (Leena Makoff) is also involved with Trigorin which is complicated by his clandestine relationship with Nina.
As a first-timer seeing the play, without any preconceptions of the plot, I was blown away by the first half. The fluency and dynamism of the script and power play between the cast – made up of 10 different nationalities – was electrifying. Yet, that audience engagement lost its pace in the second half. That said the cast was not the missing link. In fact, the cast is a multi-talented and lively bunch.
Easton gives a convincing performance as Konstantin alongside Prange’s easily mislead Nina; empathising with her troubled character is easy. Denner’s handsome and arrogant Trigorin is almost villainous, while Makoff’s Irina is effectively bold. McQueen Francis as the doctor, Dorn, and Yasir Senna as the senior civil servant with a failing health condition, Sorin, also deserve a mention for bringing comedy elements to life and adding a personal touch to the stage. And Thomas Witcomb as the weedy teacher, Medvedenko, who is smitten by Masha (Melissa Lam), introduces much-needed lightheartedness for a tense and deep script.
One thing I’ve learnt about The Seagull is how the success of a production heavily relies on the cast to portray each character’s disposition without distorting parallel narratives happening in tandem. The potential is there for Acting Gymnasium to get it right. Perhaps the night I saw it was a one-off chance where it didn’t work out so well. Nevertheless, The Seagull is definitely worth a look in if you haven’t already seen it.
The Seagull is now showing on Friday 27th at 7.30 pm, Sunday 29th at 2.30 pm and Monday 30th at 7:30pm. Also in May on Thursday 3rd at 7.30 pm, Saturday 5th at 2.30 pm. Click here to purchase tickets on the Acting Gymnasium website here.