The Seagull by Anton Chekhov. Moonlight Theatre at ANU Arts Centre Drama Studio, directed by Justin Davidson. March 10-19, 2005, 8pm. Tickets $15 at the door, or dinner and show package at Teatro Vivaldi, 6257 2718.
Moonlight opens its second year with a very satisfying production of Chekhov's arguably most difficult play. After its failure in St Petersburg in 1896, Konstantin Stanislavski made it a lasting success at the Moscow Art Theatre in 1898. Stanislavski's method has clearly inspired Davidson and his cast, who have succeeded in making the play work on all its three levels - the intense personal interrelationships, the wider social context, and the changing nature of European theatre from simplistic melodrama to complex naturalism.
Each of ten characters are significant in the web of emotions, and each actor made their part clear and memorable. The only weakness - which may be to some extent excused in a university-based company whose theatre studies were not designed to train professional actors - was the lack of clarity of diction in some men, particularly Stuart Roberts in the major role of the suicidal writer Treplyov. Perhaps as an aspect of this uptight character, Roberts adopted a tight-jawed form of speech which too often failed to make individual words precise and comprehensible, even though there was no doubt about the character and his intentions.
David Clapham made the successful writer and seducer Trigorin properly, though sweetly, insufferable. Sam Hanna-Morrow's doctor Dorn weaved his way skilfully through the relationship quagmire. The teacher Medvedenko (Ben Drysdale) was as dry as chalkdust, and no wonder Stephanie Brewster's excellently played Masha took to snuff and vodka at the realisation she would have to marry him. The decrepit lawyer Sorin (Glenn Brown), estate manager Shamrayev (Brendan Hawke)and his wife Paulina (Martha Ibrahim) neatly filled the spaces in the peripatetic lives of the old always-acting actress Irina Arkadina (Emma Lawrence), Trigorin and the young "seagull" Nina Zarietchnaya. Rachael Teding van Berkhout in this role was notable for so successfully moving in and out of the roles that Nina tries to play. Her being on the edge of emotional collapse in the famous seagull speech was a high point.
After showing solid development last year through three Brecht plays, Moonlight can be proud of The Seagull, and we can look justifiably forward to two more Chekhov plays in 2005.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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