The air of excitement for the opening night of The Seagull may have had as much to do with the return of BAFTA-nominated Greta Scacchi to a Western Australian stage as enthusiasm for Anton Chekov’s tragi-comedy, and both Scacchi and Chekov delighted on opening night.
A tale of hopeless love triangles, unfulfilled dreams and existential musings, the Black Swan State Theatre’s adaptation of The Seagull was brought to life by a solid cast, including theatre veteran and long-time friend of Scacchi, Michael Loney, who added depth with his portrayal of the regretful, kind Sorin.
2012 WAAPA graduate Luke McMahon played the tortured Konstantin with feeling and was at his best in the mother and son scenes.
Scacchi commanded attention, as Arkandina should, and entertained as the vain, insecure and utterly selfish ageing diva. She was joined on stage by her daughter, Leila George, who makes her professional stage debut in this production. George gave a solid performance as the naïve, coquettish Nina, annoying giggle aside.
The mother-daughter combination made some of the scenes particularly poignant, as they vied for the affections of Trigorin and exposed generational shifts in thinking.
Ironically, in spite of Chekov’s dislike for the melodramatic theatre of his day, The Seagull felt a bit ‘acty’ at times, with some of the earlier scenes a little wooden. The most moving scenes were found in the banal and everyday; Arkandina bandaging her son’s head and the group playing a card game while old Sorin lay dying on a couch.
Despite the sinister imagery of the seagull and frequent allusions to tragedy, there were plenty of laughs along the way, mostly from the philosophical doctor with a terrible bedside manner, Dorn (Andrew McFarlane), and the always black-shrouded Masha (Rebecca Davis), whose glass-half-empty personality provided comic relief.
Although it was penned in the late 19th century and set in the Russian countryside, the themes of life, love and art that swirl through this play are relevant and fresh today. Black Swan State Theatre’s production was not outstanding, but certainly enjoyable, and Chekov’s superb prose and unforgettable imagery left much to ponder over.
Black Swan State Theatre Company presents
by Anton Chekhov | adaptation by Hilary Bell
Directed by Kate Cherry
Venue: Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA
Dates: 9 – 31 August 2014
Bookings: Ticketek 1300 795 012 | ticketek.com.au