'Seagull' review or 'Taxidermist for one!'
'Seagull', Anton Chekhov
Arcola Theatre, Tuesday 14th June 2011
Written for Time Out
Nina sways precariously on a platform, faithfully reciting Konstantin's awkward prose. A crowd of friends noisily distribute sweets, with every rustle tearing through the director's tense frame. It is a clever opening that captures the essence of Chekov's 'The Seagull', which sees a young writer struggle to make his voice heard in a community of self-serving artists.
Al Weaver plays the tortured Konstantin, who Nina (Yolanda Kettle) drops in favour of famed writer Trigorin. Weaver's idealistic rants boil from within and he is as flinty as Nina is fickle. It is Konstantin's allies that shine in this sympathetic 'Seagull'. Roger Lloyd Pack's straight-talking doctor radiates the assurance of a life well lived and Will Knightley's Sorin creaks with kindness.
Blatchley is careful to avoid melodrama and Dora Schweitzer's set is fittingly restrained. There are no sweeping, shadowy interiors and the play unfurls in a modest outdoor landscape, papered in green.
But Blatchley's decision to mute any extravagant elements does diminish some blazing roles. Trigorin (Matt Wilkinson) might be suitably weedy but he lacks charisma and it's tough to see why the ladies flock to him. Geraldine James' Arkadina has an earthy appeal but even her most cutting lines are softened with apologetic smiles.