After fizzling out in 2013 with the deplorable Maggie Stone, The State Theatre Company of South Australia opens 2014 with a bang – Anton Chekhov’s sublime tragicomedy The Seagull.
Chekhov is a Dionysian master of the human condition and those themes he explores are particularly well suited to the South Australian milieu.
The Seagull examines a group of family and friends whose tangled emotional and professional lives transpire and unravel over 2 hours running time and 2 years linear time. It begins and ends in a seaside setting. Triangular love/hate dynamics abound. Including those frictions between a mother and son. Unrequited love and its consequences. Life choices of passionate desire and despair. Artists (and wannabe artists) love of art and their mind’s journey. In fact, along with a number of other hefty and intertwining concepts, love is everywhere in The Seagull including the question; can love be murdered in favour of . . . life?
The Seagull’s enduring appeal lies in the fact that much of what emerges on stage could be (and sometimes is) played out, albeit to a much lesser extent, in holiday get-together’s at backyard BBQ’s and parties across Australia.
[pull_left]The Seagull’s enduring appeal lies in the fact that much of what emerges on stage could be played out in holiday get-together’s at backyard BBQ’s and parties across Australia.[/pull_left]
Hillary Bell’s adaptation is modernised effectively. Bell successfully balances Chekhov’s sense of humour, absurdity and sorrow while maintaining the metronome of emotional thuggery in the Russian original.
Matthew Gregan’s compositions underwrite both scene changes and storyline with a richly gentle tapestry appropriate to the mood of the play and substantially, his music arouses a genuinely visceral response with the audience.
Director Geordie Brookman fulfils his obligations to the script, the actors and the audience with a deft professionalism. Brookman coils and unleashes the actors across the scenic workshop’s ‘stage’ with the lateral undulation of a snake.
While the play is an ensemble effort with Matthew Gregan, Paul Blackwell, Terence Crawford, Lizzy Falkland, Renato Musolino and Chris Pitman all providing outstanding support. However, the stand out performers include Rosalba Clemente playing a sour and good ‘Protestant Mother’ inducing glorious portions of passion and neurosis.
Recent Flinders Drama Centre graduate Lucy Fry introduces the ingénue Nina with a cold sensuality only to bring the character back to life with that particular combination of narcissism and insecurity which makes up the best (and worst) actors.
Local actor made good Xavier Samuel, who’s enjoyed Hollywood success in the Twilight movies, is an obvious draw-card for this show and no doubt some people will be coming just for him but the closest this production gets to vampires is a faint mock-Gothic charm running throughout some scenes. If Samuel’s presence does bring new people to the theatre then they could only leave impressed with the overall quality of this production. Samuel plays Konstantin with a believable warmth and vulnerability perfectly suited to the role.
For 2 hours The Seagull’s audience is gripped in an emotional maelstrom only to be left spent and ponderous at its conclusion. Could drama get any better than that?