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The Seagull (Susan Elkin reviews)


The Seagull

Hemar Theatre at Ognisko Polskie

The Seagull requires a large, potentially unwieldy cast and it’s good to see a professional group tackling it adeptly in a pretty small space. The Ognisco Polksie Hearth Club, which was new to me, occupies a very grand semi-detached house in South Kensington with a bar and restaurant on the ground floor. The two main reception rooms on the first floor, front to back, form a 140 seat theatre. Gigi Roberts and her international cast make imaginative use of the space which, obviously has no wings. The imaginary lake is in the distance behind the audience and there’s a deal of charging up the central aisle as characters move in and out of Irina Arkadina’s famous drawing room (attractively designed by Magdalena Rutkowska) where the action happens. It neatly conveys the sense of distance hedged by claustrophobic insularity which the play needs.

There are some fine performances too. Hannah Keeley’s angry, unhappy Masha taking refuge from reality in snuff and hard liquour is nicely caught. Adam Cunis as Constantine, the misunderstood artistic son overshadowed by his flamboyant, self-obsessed mother, is a pleasingly naturalistic actor. Maria Hildebrand is good as stage-struck Nina too, all excitement, tragedy, flowing pale clothes and wild blonde hair.

Less successful, though is Lynne O’Sullivan as Irina who has to be totally excessive to be believable and for the play to make sense. It should be her charismatic diva-like attitudes and manners which trigger the ultimate tragedy and keep Tregorin (Niall Bishop – suitably dishy and selfish) coming back for more. O’Sullivan’s take on the role is understated and doesn’t quite fit. The tender bandage-changing scene with Cunis – which eventually erupts into tension – works well, however.

Two other problems with this show are that there are times when one senses well rehearsed actors speaking lines and making movements but there is little evidence of that vital listening to each other – and it’s that which marks out a competent performance from an excellent one. Second, as an amateur violinist I loved the duets played at the beginning of each half by Filip and Michal Cwizewicz but their presence was gratuitous because the music added nothing whatever to the action. Moreover I’m not sure whether anyone new to the play, would from this version, have understood why it’s called The Seagull.

 First published by Sardines:


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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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