Review: Young Chekhov – The Seagull, National Theatre


“We should show life…as we see it in our dreams.”

The Seagull may be the most ensemble-focused of the three plays that make up Young Chekhov but with the glorious Anna Chancellor appearing as the mercurial Arkadina – her star cachet getting her out of having to do either of the other two – the attention can’t help but be drawn to her and her extraordinary stage presence.

This may be the most well-known of the Chekhov plays being presented here, it certainly deservedly emerges as the strongest, and so David Hare’s freshened-up version has little of the heavy work it had to do with the others. Jonathan Kent’s production places it at the end of the three-show day deliberately, it’s where it sits chronologically and you really do get to see the maturation of the writer, his ability to develop his characters and themes more dramatically effectively.

Arkadina is thus his first corker of a role for an older woman and Chancellor imbues her with all the grandiosity and pomposity she deserves, and the suicidally depressed protagonist is reissued as Joshua James’ excellent Konstantin in all his drippy neediness and aching sensitivity. Olivia Vinall (as one of the few who pulls triple duty) is a strong, sensuous Nina who can’t help but be taken with Arkadina’s lover Trigorin, a seductive, almost camp Geoffrey Streatfeild.

Kent’s direction understandably has the slight feeling of dropping down a gear but the emotional stakes remain as high as ever and perhaps even more so, the economy of movement intensifies the depth of feeling here in this world where the baby boomers have fucked it up for the millennials, erm I mean the 1800s version of generational friction – I guess that’s what they call topical! 

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 8th October

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