Adapted by John Donnelly, this production still retains the melancholic atmosphere of the play as it follows the conflicts between four different artists who desire love and admiration.
In addition the production has a firm cast. Abigail Cruttenden does not display much grandeur as Arkadina, but she plays the overbearing and vain actress well. Alexander Cobb shines as a tortured and sour Konstantin who longs for his mother’s acceptance. A highlight of the play comes during their ironic argument in the third scene, as they insult each other’s artistic integrity amidst oohs from the audience. Pearl Chanda meanwhile is an innocent and passionate Nina, but by the end she gives a touching and dignified performance.
Gyuri Sarossy produces a reclusive and contented Boris, but by the third scene Arkadina’s hold on him is clearly shown as he frantically pleasures himself for her amusement. Elsewhere, Colin Haigh’s Sorin is jovial but melancholic as he looks back at the disappointments of his life. Despite the naturalistic style of the play the clarity of line delivery makes some of the secondary characters less easy to follow, but on the whole the cast is top-notch.
The set is more minimalist than naturalist. The backdrop consists of a blank piece of paper, and the occasional prop is brought on for each scene. To give a sense of location, the ensemble members come on to paint drawings of things like the lake, seagulls, suitcases, and graffiti. What is continuously present is a long wooden platform that is used as a jetty, table and a see-saw, and at times it presents some of the symbols inherent in the production.
The lighting team does well to create the atmosphere of each scene, including the lake at night-time and Sorin’s estate in semi-darkness. There is occasionally some confusion over the modern setting, such as the use of horse drawn transport, but generally the update is believable.
Overall this is a captivating production, and together with the cast and designs this is an adaptation that is worth seeing.