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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre presents

 

The Seagull

 

 

In a new version by Torben Betts

Director – Matthew Dunster

Designer – Jon Bauser

Movement Director – Charlotte Broom

Lighting Designer – Philip Gladwell

Sound Designer – Christopher Shutt

 

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

19 June – 11 July 2015

 

Already a magical setting, Jon Bausor’s design for The Seagull gives Regent’s Park Theatre an other-worldly feel. A giant mirror hanging at an angle over the stage means that the audience always have the option of two points of view of the action. On a visual level this creates a truly stunning effect. Intermingled with the wonderfully portrayed interior monologues of the characters it elevates the themes of idea and reality, internal and external and public and private life. Those at Regent’s Park have chosen to present this searing new version of Chekov’s The Seagull on the 120-year anniversary of the play, showing typical thought for detail and lending an extra poignancy to the performances.

Action opens with a presentation of a play within-a-play and the first of numerous overt references to Shakespeare’s Hamlet which are truly nurtured and played upon beautifully. Konstantin (Matthew Tennyson) presents a futuristic monologue performed by his girlfriend Nina (Sabrina Bartlett ) to a distinguished audience. The spectators include his mother, Irina Arkadina (Janie Dee) who is a famous actress and her celebrity novelist boyfriend Trigoron (Alex Robertson).

Nina is presented as naïve and impressionable as she should be. Fickle with her attention and affections she covets fame above all else. Olivier-Award winner Janie Dee is a completely believable Irina Arkadina. She avoids stepping out of character for as much as an instant. Her momentary displays of apparent tenderness towards others are quickly glossed over by her remarkable propensity for self interest.

 

 

Konstantin’s Uncle, Peter Sorin (Ian Redford) is adorable for all his bumbling and grumbling.  He is an essential foil to the confident and worldly older men who occupy the stage alongside him, pickled as he is in bitter regrets.

 In the most complimentary way, it has to be said that Colin Hoult’s Simon Medviedenko is the most spectacularly pathetic character I’ve ever witnessed on stage. The level of humiliation and disregard he endures under the tormented Masha (Lisa Diveney) is nothing short of harrowing. In her single–minded, eventually almost abstract, pursuit of Konstantin she is blind to anything else but the occasional dashes of attention cast her way by Trigorin for distraction.

The farm manager Shamraev (Fraser James) and his wife Paulina (Lisa Palfrey) are the only official part of the company who occupy a space on the fringes by virtue of their class. On the one hand, he is sickly sweet – pandering to the ego of Irina Arkadina, but on the other he is stubborn and principled and as likely to pour scorn on the other characters as to put them asleep with recycled tales. Natasha (Tara D’Arquian) and Yakov (Tom Greaves) are also peripheral characters though they have a sort of omnipresence. House servants, gardeners and caretakers form touching bonds with the audience by giggling with them at innuendo and the ludicrousness of the some of the artists posturing.

This production brings out the very best of Chekhov’s tragedy and his comedy. The comic elements are cultivated without shying whatsoever from the darkest depths of the drama. Under Dunster’s astute direction the cast manage an unusual feat – there is no strictly central character. Each main characterisation presented is so fully attended to that the play is about any and all of them in equal measure. Costumes are well-selected. Arkadina is glamorous and immaculately turned out, Nina’s garments reflect her innocence and later her experience. The wonderfully sullen and morose Masha is ever-clad in black, with her nose in a snuff-box or swigging from a hip-flask.

In just over two hours the audience are presented with unbridled conceit, debilitating insecurity, passion and obsession, decadence, romance and spirituality. The Seagull is an exquisite exploration of the human condition and this production is completely sensitive to that. At moments of dramatic tension or mental exertion for the characters, harsh percussion penetrates the arena meaning the audience feel a portion of the unease the characters are going through. Thunder and lightning effects are spectacular and as torrential rain pours from behind the mirrored backdrop it might as well be falling on the audience members for how effective it is at drawing us into the scene.

This stunning production is bold, brave and incredibly beautiful. If you can see only one play this summer, I heartily recommended that you make it this one. 

 

 

 

 

 

Box Office:  0844 826 4242

Online Bookings: www.openairtheatre.com
Open Air Theatre
Inner Circle, Regent's Park
London NW1 4NU
Recommended for ages 9+
 
 
 

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