The Seagull - Young Chekhov Season

Anton Chekhov, in a new version by David Hare
National Theatre
Olivier Theatre

Geoffrey Streatfeild and Olivia Vinall Credit: Johan Persson
A scene from The Seagull Credit: Johan Persson
Anna Chancellor Credit: Johan Persson

An 11-hour day that started exceptionally well with Platonov and dipped slightly with Ivanov reaches its triumphant zenith with Jonathan Kent's superb interpretation of The Seagull, in another modern, colloquial version from Sir David Hare.

This play about unrequited love and ennui is better constructed and has greater depth than its fellows, hence its enduring popularity.

Not only is this the strongest of Young Chekhov's early plays but it also allows a quartet of leading actors to show their mettle.

In particular, the younger generation shines as Olivia Vinall, who has a busy day, proves to be a wonderful Nina, convincing as a gauche teenager but then transforming her character into a disappointed wreck at the end of an intense 2½ hours.

Her journey is mirrored by that of Joshua James whose Konstantin starts out as a temperamental and immature youngster and matures into a disappointed but marginally more successful adult.

Anna Chancellor does a worthy job as Arkadina, Konstantin's flighty actress mother. She is loving, irritating and insecure at different points, as required by the text, most emotions fired by the self-satisfied, lazy, amoral writer Trigorin. Geoffrey Streatfeild in this part somehow finds hidden reserves of energy having given so much in the title role as Ivanov.

Tom Pye's lovely, evocative set changes to bring in a significant lake, adding to the atmosphere especially in a rainy denouement.

One of the pleasures of Chichester Festival Theatre's Young Chekhov trilogy is a chance to see the playwright's development but also recurring themes and characters.

It may sound daunting but this really is a highly enjoyable day out or, for the less hardy, could provide three worthwhile evenings instead.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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