Venue: 140 George Street (The Rocks NSW), Mar 18 – 28, 2015
Playwright: Anton Chekhov (translated by Peter Carson)
Cast: Jade Alex, Maxine Appel-Cohen, Alison Bennett, Mitchell Bowker, Daniel Csutkai, Cecilia Morrow, Julian Pulvermacher, Milan Pulvermacher, Ross Scott, Anthony White
Image by Adam North
The narcissistic characters in Chekhov’s The Seagull talk about the things they want for themselves, and suffer endlessly for their self-centred desires. In this production devised by a cast of ten, acting is their chief interest, and each actor’s focus on their own realm is clear to see. Without a more conventional directorial appointment, and termed an “experiment in text”, the show is without a distinct sense of what it wishes to communicate, but rich with exploratory ideas from a performance perspectives. In light of this somewhat atypical context for a show, it is not surprising to discover several scenes that appear to be relatively self-indulgent, with insufficient effort put into connecting with the audience. Also, chemistry between actors is underdeveloped, as much of the work seems individually introspective.
There is talent to be found in the group and a good deal of conviction from every player, but some of the younger actors would benefit from paying closer attention to speech accents so that a more accurate sense of time and place can be achieved. The role of Konstantin is played by Daniel Csutkai who portrays innocence well, with a sense of repression that rings true, if slightly too subdued. Alison Bennett is delightful as the flamboyant Irina, providing the show with some much needed vibrancy and exuberance that keep energy levels up, but her more sombre qualities are less convincingly imagined. The young and naive Nina is powerfully realised by Jade Alex, who introduces a wide-eyed wonderment that gives the character believability, and makes her imminent demise all the more disquieting. Her crucial last scene, however, requires better gravity, as do the other cast members, who seem to lose stamina as the play progresses towards its dark conclusion.
It is always a joy to see actors working on their craft with great devotion. They put heart and mind into making magic happen, and it often does. Staging a show involves a lot more than the art of acting, and on this occasion, the missing elements are needed to support the choice of presenting the full narrative of The Seagull. Chekhov’s script discusses various viewpoints on the nature of theatre and its practice. Every society will have divergent opinions about the function and execution of artistic endeavours, but the mere presence of art is something to cherish.