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  • Colin Fraser


TWO STARS Chekov's satire of the rich and bored, direct from London's National Theatre.


Starring Emilia Clarke, Daniel Monks

Anton Chekov’s THE SEAGULL, a searing portrait of Russian upper classes is stripped bare in this National Theatre production from Jamie Lloyd. He’s best known for challenging audiences with his vivid retuning of CYRANO, notable for James McAvoy’s incredible exclamation of his unbearable ugliness. It forced you to examine the text, and look at the play with fresh eyes. Amid the pulsing lights and pounding soundtrack, something quite extraordinary was teased from the familiar text.

Thus expectation was equally high with Lloyd directing Emilia Clarke and Australia’s Daniel Monks (currently on screen in SISSY) in lead roles. Clarke is never less than compelling, as are the entire cast, with her Game Of Thrones co-star Indira Varmi especially commanding.

Less so is Lloyd’s decision to bring this back to basics. The Harold Pinter stage is reduced to three chip-board walls with a shoeless cast each given a waiting-room chair to sit upon. They move them to denote being inside or outside the room, and that’s it. No set dressing, no music, no stagecraft, little lighting, no magic. This is about the text, man. Focus on the text.

Which is all very well, but audiences need a helping hand to open out Chekov’s dense writing. The play benefits from visual clues and elements theatre can offer. It gives us respite, an opportunity to digest the play, its themes, its characters and their motives. As is, Lloyd’s THE SEAGULL might be considered post-theatre but it has all the resonance of a cast reading which, for those of us watching on, feels odd and frankly, lazy.

The cast do a lot with little and for some, that might well be enough. For the rest of us, THE SEAGULL is a slog.


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