The Acting Gymnasium takes a classic play, Chekhov’s The Seagull and brings it into the First World War. The themes are timeless, looking at complicated relationships, whether it’s between the generations – like mother and son – or an unrequited infatuation. Like many of these classic tales, the tortured artist spends the entire play – in this case between August 1914 and November 1916 – coming to terms with his alternative art style and understanding that the best work comes straight from the heart. This new time twist adds the extra theme of military versus pacifism as the war surrounds but never quite touches these characters.
It goes without saying that the cast has worked really hard on this performance and bringing it into the twentieth century. Between the obvious nerves and lack of annunciation, it feels as though a few more rehearsals may have benefitted the cast. At times, when the characters are meant to be speaking to themselves, they forget that the audience are still present and a lot of the lines are lost.
Kirsty Langley as the agonised artist’s mother, Arkadina, is truly an asset to this cast. She is extremely animated and easily draws the audience in. Her character shows a range of emotions that many of the other characters seem to lack.
It is a wonderful idea to bring this show into the twentieth century; however, it doesn’t quite seem to meet its potential. The war scene is never really addressed and is only ever a background idea. The show takes place in a series of flash-forwards and flashbacks in quite an interesting manner – often alluding to the shell shock of the soldiers – however it does take some time to catch on once the scene has changed. Once it is clear, it is an intriguing way to present the narrative and interestingly it comes back full circle before revealing the fates of all the various characters.
It would be really interesting to see a play like this one again if the story has more time to develop. The characters need some more depth in order to engage with the audience and it would become more dynamic if the effects of the war are shown on the characters slightly more.
The Seagull is playing at Theatro Technis until 25 April. For tickets and more information, see the Theatro Technis website.