August 24, 2007
Brian Hotter posted 23 Aug 2007, 10:05 AM / edited 23 Aug 2007, 05:58 PM
While their King Lear did leave much to be desired (for the record I loved McKellen and Gaunt and Monica Dolan, the rest for me were neither here nor there) “The Seagull” was a triumph. The only disappointment was the screeching banshee in the shape of Nina whose only saving grace was that her character was a bad actor and unfortunate for us Nina takes up the climax duologue between her and Konstantin. Yes you are a Seagull. You sound exactly like a squawking dieing seagull! Nice acting! Yes we wish Konstantin had saved the bird and shot you! Stop waving your arms around and go do away with yourself! Please! The rest of the play was like sitting in a natural spa. Oh Masha Masha Masha (Monica Dolan), you black clad beauty how I fell in love with your melancholy. I could go on and on and on everybody was astounding for me.
For many years I have adored Chekhov and all his masterpieces and have only found real satisfaction in reading them, it was not until the RSC swam gently through it I was I genuinely amazed and convinced that Chekhov was indeed doable. There is something so rich so articulate so full of love and heart about Chekhov that I cannot help but be lured in by. I feel engulfed by his world and his words and his characters. I feel I understand them, I know them. Very little other works do this for me. The thing I love the most about his works is that they seem to be about nothing but they are indeed so rich so dripping in cream and sugar and meat and gravy that as long as his plays are in front of me I don’t want them to end; I want to go right on feasting.
One of the things with this production that stood out from reading Chekhov is that when I read the plays I find myself always going back to the character list to find out who is whom, with the whole Russian double triple name business, but all of these characters were so clearly defined that they could be calling each other Cabbage or Broccoli and I’d still know who was whom. Hell even the extras were a treat to watch; that beat over old man; that young girl who followed Arkadina around flirting with the lads of the land. Beautiful.
There are three reviews about Lear and only one of Seagull on this site let us make up for that. For each comment made about the disappointing Lear lets us have twice as many for the tourdeforce that was “The Seagull”.
Brian Hotter posted 23 Aug 2007, 10:10 AM / edited 23 Aug 2007, 01:33 PM
There are now two Seagull reviews. Let us keep that dead Bird flying!
nik smythe posted 23 Aug 2007, 12:06 PM
a fair assessment Brian. i did spend quite some time myself trying to decide whether Romola was awful or brilliant. i concluded that she was in fact well cast as a fish out of water, who’s abusive off-stage homelife is referred to briefly but mostly illustrated in her terrified, jittery inability to be still and relax. i contend that Nina the character was the unbearably anxious one, not Romola the actress. If you still think it’s a bad choice then that’s the responsibility of Trevor Nunn.
Andy the Randy Scandy posted 23 Aug 2007, 12:11 PM
Great gushing ghoulash of a review Brian, but next time better double ‘Checkoff’ the spelling… How would you feel if someone reviewed Pig Hunt as written by ‘Brain Hooters’?
Brian Hotter posted 24 Aug 2007, 10:18 AM
We now have three Seagull reviews! Yeah! But please people out do your RSC Lear production negativity by posting about the elegant RSC Checkoff’s (oops) Chekhov’s The Seagull production.
nik smythe posted 24 Aug 2007, 03:16 PM / edited 24 Aug 2007, 03:21 PM
i suppose i’m cheating here, having written one of them, but never mind, if nothing else it’ll pad it out and help it look good… i notice John in some part concurred with your (Brian’s) assessment of the (not so elegant) Nina, suggesting the character should have developed more than she had in the final act. I disagree; she’s had some experience in the world and has surely become more resigned to the notion that nothing ever goes her way with all the troubles she’s faced. but even if her faith in the possibility of happiness is dulled or even demolished, it’s only been two years and she clearly still cannot shake the innate sense of desire that keeps her jittering like a meerkat, no matter that she may have long since given up any hope for fulfilment. she is still young. in fact, if she had seemed any more more grown up i should not have believed it as much. having not seen Lear, i can’t compare her performances. i do agree Nina was excruciating to watch, but there’s certainly nothing un-lifelike about that. if i’d wanted a more composed and disarming beauty i would’ve switched her role with the maid, Zoe Boyle. the casting and direction of Ms Garai was a gamble. some see it as a compromise, i see it the opposite. another thing John said which i do agree with; Gerald Kyd’s charismatic underplaying of Trigorin. not having known the play before seeing this one, it wasn’t till sometime later i realised Trigorin was the scoundrel of the piece. he was just so likeable. a lesser director would probably play up his agendas and connivings but Trevor Nunn shows us that is not only unnecessary, the work is richer and more human for the lack of doing so.
John Smythe posted 24 Aug 2007, 03:39 PM
In response to Nik (this written before I read his most recent post), it seems clear that those who saw both RSC productions were likely to have a different response from those who just saw The Seagull. I gave Romola Garai’s Nina the benefit of the doubt until I could no longer ignore the fact that her vocal and physical mannerisms were identical to those she’d used as Cordelia in King Lear – and two more different characters would be hard to find.
Contrast this with Monica Dolan’s Regan then Masha and you have perfect examples of the actor who transforms with each character versus the performing persona who distorts each character they play to fit their own limited rage.
Sure, Garai is luminous on screen, where we readily read her thoughts and empathise with her emotions. But given the two live performances she’s offered here, we can only presume she’s out of her depth on stage. The mannerisms I’ve mentioned signify actor insecurity rather than anything much to do with her characters.
The fact that Garai’s growing fame as a screen actress sees her exploited for publicity while the likes of Dolan remain publicly unsung and undervalued proves how warped media priorities are – or is it more to do with publicists taking the easy option rather than working to build the profile of those who most deserve it?