Review: The Seagull, Southwark Playhouse ✭✭✭✭

Anya Reiss’s The Seagull is bold, entertaining, but most of all – and this is where most translations fall down – it feels utterly and completely natural to an English audience. Perhaps it is Reiss’s age that has enabled her to approach the text with such vigour; whatever the reason, we should celebrate a playwright who does not feel the need to wear white cotton gloves when handling a great text. Reiss has proven it is still possible to keep the play alive whilst undergoing a complete transformation.

this classic play has now been realistically brought up to date by a young writer, advanced beyond her years

Set on the Isle of Man, with some fantastic sound and effects from sound designer George Dennis, the essence of Chekhov’s original characters remain; the bleakness of Joseph Drake’s Konstantin, his child-like size adding to his vulnerability; Lily James’s agonising and desperate Nina; Emily Dobb’s rejected Masha. But the emotionally-taught moments are broken up with some essential comic performances from Ben Moor’s Medvedenko, who likes nothing more than to go on about the cost of his mobile phone contract; Malcolm Tierney’s Sorin, with his sudden recounts and outstanding comedy timing; and Sasha Waddell’s Arkadina, who instantly commands the room and everybody’s attention with her outrageous points of view, especially on parenting.

Though audience members may not fair as well if sat in the side blocks of this three-sided theatre, there are many compelling reasons to see this modern Chekhov production. Not least because, despite being written over 120 years ago, The Seagull contains emotive conundrums which many of us, if not all, can still relate to, and this classic play has now been realistically brought up to date by a young writer, advanced beyond her years, who has the ability to make some of her contemporaries seem pallid by comparison.

**** (4stars)
Runs until 1st December

Theatre fans may be aware that Anya Reiss’ text will be used once again for The Seasgull when Emilia Clarke when a new production of The Seagull opens at The Playhouse Theatre London on 11 March 2020. Book Tickets

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