The Seagull as per Benedict Andrew’s vision at Belvoir Theatre

With a cast that included Judy Davis and David Wenham I had high expectations from The Seagull, written by Anton Chekhov, adapted and Directed by Benedict Andrews. So it’s a Russian play adapted to an Australian holiday park, but without all the Russian references (or Vodka) removed. This can at times be quite jarring. There is a lot of smoking, smoke machine use and the symbolic use of a see-through box with a chair in it, used during the play within a play as well as for character’s to disappear into. There is a realistic set of a holiday park, complete with Ikea bunk beds and a lot, I mean a lot of grey/black falling from the sky (ash/rain). Everything seems so overdone. So heavy handed. The smoke machine for one. And it’s just so long (2.5 hours plus 20minute intermission). This means that the play ends at 11pm.

Nina’s final moments on stage are excruciating and her descent into madness with references to the seagull, now what was I talking about again, that’s right, was extremely unnatural and annoying. Although even she seemed like she just wanted to get off stage because she had bits of the black stuff in her eyes and nose. By the time Konstantin (Dylan Young) dies, you don’t even care about his character, or any of the other ones for that matter. When you have moments like when they are playing bingo inside that just goes on and on, you want it to end. In true Chekov style no one gets what they want, whether it’s fame as an actress or writer, love or anything else. The only problem is that it was just so hard to feel empathy for them, especially Nina: the frail ‘seagull’.

Benedict is endlessly curious and he can’t sit down for very long because he gets too excited,” Davies says. ”He runs up and down and waves sticks around.” I can easily see how this quote would be true, stated by Gareth Davies (the school teacher). Benedict seems to be waving his sticks around through this production. Ok ok. But because of all of the smoke (quite literally), moments that were meant to be powerful, moving and sad made the audience giggle and laugh out loud. This cannot be a good thing. It’s always fun to see some of our great actors and actresses on stage, but they looked a bit peeved by the whole thing. You can feel the intensity of the rehearsal room on stage. Another point of annoyance that adds to the disjointed feel of it all is the weird overpowering moments of contemporary songs thrown in. These gets giggles from our audience too. I know I’m being harsh, but I’m not often!

 

Comments
3 Responses to “The Seagull as per Benedict Andrew’s vision at Belvoir Theatre”
  1. Mrs eats a lot says:

    Ouch. Harsh review. Funny though. I kind of want to see it now, all that crazy smoke etc.!

  2. Gavin Wilson says:

    Sounds like Belvoir techncians had trouble getting a handle on all the smoke being generated. Maybe something preview shows haven’t remedied. I’d give it another look after a couple of weeks, may be a different show when all the bugs are worked out.

  3. vicki says:

    hi- I agree with many of your observations about this production- bravo for calling the emperor’s’s new clothes with the busy cluttered production- most of the regular reviewers seemed to be hypnotised by the smoke and glass boxes and the presence of Great Actors.
    This is a great play and i feel it suffered from the change of time and place- it all looked like a scene from Seachange mixed with some Angry boys moments.Lost were the social isolation and the class differences that agonise tyhe Russians- it just doesnt transpose into Oz life IMO.
    I wasn’t at all convinced by either Nina or Constantin who as the idealistic younger generation have to balance the ennui of the older characters. Of them Wenham seemed very false and stilted and Judy Davis such a perfect choice for the role of the fading diva that she hardly needed to act and that created another hole in the fabric of this tightly knit dysfunctional family. Some excellent moments from Bille Brown, John gaden and from Masha and Semeon-I enjoyed the first half – with some reservations- but by the second half i too was wishing it would all vanish up in smoke and ash- and after sitting through the endless ash falling in Richard III( War of Roses) seeing it reappear here was nothing short of torture ( for me and the actors) I have loved so many Belvoir shows of late – Wild duck , Diary, Woyzeck- all top notch and edgy theatre. Not this time- not by a long shot.

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