Experiments in Text Two (2): The Seagull

27 Mar

The idea of experimentation in theatre has created in my non-theatrical friends much hilarity.

‘What are you experimenting on?’ they laugh. ‘The audience?’

Which is, of course, true of every piece of theatre.

Putting on a production is like firing up a particle accelerator.  You get a small number of very excited particles and send them hurtling at a larger, more inert mass. Then, after the collision, you know more about the universe.

A director friend of mine points out that he doesn’t put on theatre to garner praise or to make money (once again I hear my friends’ laughter.) He puts on theatre to learn about the world.  What audiences find interesting, repulsive, charming or dull teaches him about people.

This production is an experiment in ensemble work. The cast have worked together (and without a director) for some time, exploring the character dynamics in Chekhov’s play.

The result is a production that’s a joy to watch. The reactions of the actors alone are worth the admission price. These are fascinating performances. (Personally, I was especially taken by Jade Alex as Nina, Daniel Csutkai as Konstantin, and Alison Bennett as Irina – but in an ensemble piece such as this everyone builds on everyone else’s work and the sum is far more than the individual performances.)


Another way in which this production could be viewed as an experiment is its pop up nature. Here’s a late C19 Russian classic performed in contemporary Australia –without the traditional theatre space which so often facilitates the suspension of disbelief. Performed in the round in a shop front in the Rocks, there’s a stimulating disparity between the Chekhovian characters (and their costuming) and all that surrounds them.

The script, a translation by Peter Carson, is English, but not Australian. Could it be? This is another fascinating experimental aspect. Combined with the space and the staging, the language asks ‘Am I relevant?’ while simultaneously and boldly dismissing as irrelevant that very question.

I haven’t really talked much about the play, which is what I usually do.

Pascal suggested all human problems are the result of our inability to sit still in a room. A ridiculous claim, and probably a correct one.

Chekhov’s also has a ridiculous-but-right claim. It could be stated like this: All our difficulties derive from our desire to be special. In The Seagull, several characters want to be famous. Several characters are. Other characters love characters they shouldn’t. Pining over unrequited love is the archetypal example of that deeply painful and entirely understandable error; the desire to be the centre of attention.

Which is the perfect time for my byline

Veronica Kaye

Experiments in Text Two (2) The Seagull

produced by The Hot Blooded Theatre Co and Hurrah Hurrah

Shop 2.03   140 George St, The Rocks

til 28 March


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