Only serious things are really beautiful opines one of the characters in Chekhov's The Seagull. If this is true, then this is a staggeringly beautiful production. Certainly, it is very serious.
The play involves a social set of ten people who gather around a Russian country lake in summer. All are suffering - from unrequited love, unfulfilled ambitions and all the consequent unhappiness that these engender. This goes beyond the traditional romantic triangle - a romantic hectagon perhaps?
The main action centres around four central characters - Madame Arkadina (Cheryl Campbell), a successful actress; Trigorin (Duncan Bell), her famous writer boyfriend; Konstantin (Mark Bazeley), her aspiring writer son; and Nina (Joanna Roth), Konstantin s aspiring actress girlfriend. Each wants something they can't have. Madame Arkadina wants Trigorin and ever-lasting youth. Trigorin wants peace from his creative obsession. Konstantin wants Nina and to express himself in a new art form. Nina wants fame, fortune and Trigorin.
Although each have their cross to bear, the real victims are Konstantin and Nina, the symbolic and delicate seagull of the title, who want too much, gain too little and are crushed by their own failures.
All of the characters have their moments in the limelight and, on the whole, deliver quite adequate if heavy-handed performances. Campbell in particular stands out as the vivacious Arkadina who, despite her spoilt nature, bewitches all and provides some much needed light relief for the audience. Bazeley also deserves a special mention for his earnest bounding across the stage, not in the least slowed by a crutch and a real-life knee injury.
With all this heartache and some fine individual performances, why then am I so curiously unmoved by this production? A friend of mine, who has seen two previous productions of The Seagull, says she was weepy for a full three days after her first viewing. Though I wanted to, I didn t muffle a single sob at this latest revival and, on leaving, the entire audience seemed pretty dry- eyed. Perhaps this Seagull is a victim of its own seriousness - too many dour expressions for one evening.
This English Touring Theatre engagement at the Donmar Warehouse concludes a national tour that began in May.
Terri Paddock, August 1997