WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith
WHEN: 7/10, press night 11/10, runs until 4/11
Simon Stephens, who adapted this Chekhov classic, is an Artistic Associate at this venue and won an Olivier Award for his work on The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time.
- Read on for reasons including why Adelayo Adedayo is a name to watch out for in the future
He’s also one of the West End’s most prolific playwrights and his play Heisenberg has its first preview at the Wyndhams Theatre 10/10.
We didn’t much enjoy his Birdland at the Royal Court in 2014 but check out this site for more favourable review of both Curious and The Threepenny Opera at the National last year.
It was at the National last year that we last saw The Seagull as part of an all-day four-play Young Chekhov production and Stephens’ adaptation is the far more interesting proposition.
The Seagull is the story of Konstantin (Brian Vernel, always excellent and here charting the tortured author’s descent into hell) who is in love with an aspiring actress (we were bowled over by how good Adelayo Adedayo was in this, switching from wide-eyed innocence to twitching wreck) but whose ambition is belittled by his overbearing actress mother (Lesley Sharp, absolutely relishing this fantastic role).
Stephens’ rock’n’roll version is heavy on the alcohol (everything, even bottles of Champagne are downed in one), ‘Tino strums at his electric guitar when he is at his most unhappy and the sets in this modern-day version are a riot of both spot and fairy lights.
No one in The Seagull is in love with someone who truly returns that feeling and, if they are, it doesn’t last for long.
So it’s certainly not a play to choose if you’re looking for a pick-me-up. But if you’re wanting something that isn’t afraid to examine the darker side of human nature, it’s fascinating.
We haven’t seen Sharp onstage before and her Irina is deliciously manipulative as she tries to control her successful writer lover Boris whose speeches about the nature and torture of his work might appear self-indulgent in other hands but Stephens’ efforts are beautifully realised here.
As we leave an audience member remarks: ‘Well, that was a barrel of laughs’ and that’s really not the reason why you should choose to see this. But there are many better ones to do so.