Review: The Seagull, at Harold Pinter Theatre

Thursday, 21st July — By Lucy Popescu

The Seagull Emilia ClarkeCredit Marc Brenner

Emilia Clarke in The Seagull. Photo: Marc Brenner

ANYA Reiss’s brilliant adaptation of The Seagull gives Chekhov’s classic a contemporary edge and draws out the characters’ unrequited love for one another. I suspect Jamie Lloyd’s radically stripped back production will divide audiences.

Played out on Soutra Gilmour’s plain chipboard set, the barefoot characters sit on plastic chairs as if in a waiting room or, indeed, a rehearsal space, and speak through head-mics. The family’s inertia – when not enlivened by love – is brought into sharp relief.

Some may miss the accoutrements of a lavish staging but I loved seeing the actors’ craft as they inhabit their characters, using only voice and their bodies. When not in a scene they turn their back on us. Lloyd is aided by an exceptional cast.

It opens with Arkadina (Indira Varma), a famous stage actress, mocking her son Konstantin’s for his self-penned play. She is accompanied by her latest beau, Trigorin (Tom Rhys Harries) a successful novelist. Konstantin is besotted with Nina (Emilia Clarke), their neighbour and an aspiring actress. Nina is soon in thrall to Trigorin, who basks in her adulation.

Meanwhile, Masha (Sophie Wu) yearns for Konstantin. She is a memorable figure, dressed in black, hunched over herself, who declares: “I’m in mourning for my life”. Her dull suitor, Medvedenko (Mika Onyx Johnson), bangs on about inequality one minute and finding the best mobile contract the next.

Daniel Monks’ illuminating performance as Konstantin gives physical expression to his mental torture. Clarke, in her stage debut, perfectly captures the starstruck Nina from her naïve smile to the childish way she inclines herself towards Trigorin whenever he’s nearby.

Harries captures Trigorin’s mediocrity – something that Konstantin sees from the start – and his awkwardness about his success. Varma’s Arkadina is an intimidating presence throughout, only displaying her vulnerability when forced to use all her wiles to keep her lover by her side, and Robert Glenister is quietly impressive as her ailing brother, Sorin.

Until September 10
haroldpintertheatre.co.uk

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