The Courier-Mail

HAVING A LAUGH WITH CHEKHOV

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THE SEAGULL Queensland Theatre Company/ Brisbane Festival Venue: Bille Brown Studio South Brisbane, until September 26 Reviewed: September 3 Reviewer: James Harper

SOME critics have suggested that the symbolic imagery provided by the dead bird in Anton Chekhov’s play The

Seagull is a bit obscure, and only tangential to the play’s larger complexiti­es of plot, theme and character.

In Daniel Evans’s energetic adaptation of The Seagull for QTC, said bird is much more prominent – in fact it has a speaking role, with a nice line in sarcastic one-liners delivered in a ham Russian accent.

If the Queensland theatre industry’s Matilda Awards have a category for Best Performanc­e by a Stuffed Seabird, then we definitely have a candidate.

Indeed one-liners are a large part of what drives this updated, Aussie-fied reworking of Chekhov’s classic, full of pop culture references, theatrical jokes and postmodern­ist multi-layering.

One major theme that fits the contempora­ry mood perfectly is the conflict between flamboyant actor Irina (Christen O’Leary) and her son Konstantin (Nicholas Gell).

He maintains that theatre is dead and irrelevant, something new, raw and revolution­ary is needed.

She mocks his understand­ing of theatrical craft and says his revolution has been done to death countless times before.

Peppered with arch references to Home and Away, Wicked and Cate Blanchett, this strand of the play resonates perfectly for a modern audience.

Other aspects, mostly to do with the complexiti­es within the characters and their relationsh­ips, fare less well.

Chekhov’s characters are famously ambiguous, no-one is all good or all bad, everyone has their moments.

Life is both mundane and miraculous; despair can be balanced with compassion.

Not much of this humanistic vision survives its meta- morphosis via Evans’s exuberant repartee.

It’s a social media, stand-up comedy Seagull – the jokes come thick and fast, the emotional conflict is extravagan­t and unsubtle.

Most of the characters come out as cliches and, in the case of the secondary parts – household member Masha, estate manager Ilya – it takes a while to work out the exact nature of their relationsh­ips to everyone else in the story.

There seems to have been a fair bit of typecastin­g, with several performers revisiting particular schticks – drunken diva, weird girl, nerd – that they have become strongly associated with in their careers to date.

One exception is Brian Lucas, who gives a nuanced performanc­e as the terminally ill landowner Sorin.

In a significan­t departure from the original, he is a rather animated, anarchic figure.

Much is made of his slow decline, more convincing­ly tragic than the forced histrionic­s that characteri­se most of the other depictions of fraught relationsh­ips in the production.

 ??  ?? AUSSIE-FIED: Nicholas Gell plays Konstantin in QTC’s take on Chekhov’s The Seagull
AUSSIE-FIED: Nicholas Gell plays Konstantin in QTC’s take on Chekhov’s The Seagull

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