Photo by Omnes Photography
The trademark absence that characterises Chekhov’s work endures in SUDS’ take on Martin Crimp’s reimagining of The Seagull, featuring a tight ensemble who rose admirably to the challenge of such an understated work.
The Cellar was beautifully reimagined as a desolate lakeside, making fantastic use of the bare-bones set to draw attention to the complex characters unfolding within it. Forgoing a traditional seating arrangement for theatre in the round was an especially powerful choice, adding a claustrophobic intimacy that drew the audience directly into the world of the play.
The greatest strength was an ensemble of capable actors comfortable in their characters, and the best scenes were the ones that actors were content to downplay. Jimmy Pucci as womaniser and philosopher-doctor Evgenyi and Charlie Meller’s square and counter-aspirational Semyon perfectly embody the strength of Chekhov’s meaning through inaction.
Zach Beavon-Collin’s Konstantin made an incredibly genuine tortured soul chasing a muse (which I assume comes from being an Artist at Sydney University) and his tangible conflict between longing for meaning through his own symbolist writing and material success made a lasting impression.
Bianca Farmakis as fading actress-narcissist Irina showed impressive range of haughty shrillness, perfectly capturing the role, and interactions between Irina and Konstantin had a marked tenderness which added dimensionality to the piece.
Despite the slightly baffling inclusion of a musical arrangement between the first and second acts, Bradley Ward’s voice was a stand out talent, and the use of tableau to confer complex sections of the plot was masterfully done, if a bit Student Theatre-y.
Julian Hollis’ Alecksei Trigorin was understated for such a typically lecherous role, and his monologues delivered with honesty the central tension between life and meaning-making.
The innocent young Nina corrupted by aspirations of a world and meaning beyond her rural life was capably portrayed by Lucy Burke, who showed real strength in her later monologues in particular. The explicitness of her madness and misfortune is somewhat uncharacteristic of a Chekov, and stood out from the understated interactions of other characters, but Burke’s overacting showed us the tension between life and theatre.
The worst thing about using the Crimp adaptation is that it loses much of the intertextuality that drives the relationship between Konstantin and Trigorin, which is reduced here to vaguely oedipal jealousy but without real zest.
One of the weakest points of the production was Masha Shamraev’s role, which felt out of place amongst such a rich production, and became increasingly grating as the play continued. In no part is this the fault of Elizabeth Millstead, who did an admiral job of traipsing around the stage smoking and delivering sarcastic monotonal jabs.
The production’s visible exploration of aspiration and meaning through living was a fantastic send off for graduating director Victor Kalka, who showed confidence, experience, and exceptional management of a diverse cast of characters both onstage and off.
The Seagull is playing for one more week at The Cellar Theatre. Find out more here.