Thursday, 25 June 2015

Review: The Seagull at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre



The Seagull
Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 24th June 2015
★★★★

Marking the 120th Anniversary of Chekhov’s iconic play, Torben Betts' newly commissioned adaptation of The Seagull works a treat. Betts hasn't attempted to overly modernise the play, his adaptation moves forwardly swiftly (particularly during the first act). Thankfully there is a lot of humour, without which The Seagull would be an utterly depressing experience.

The Seagull begins with guests assembling in the grounds of a country house to preview a bizarrely abstract play by Konstantin (Matthew Tennyson), the son of fading actress Irina Arkadina (Janie Dee). Needless to say, the Open Air Theatre perfectly lends itself to the setting, with Jon Bausor's glorious design making The Seagull yet another stunning production for the venue. A large mirror is positioned above the stage, creating some beautiful imagery throughout; the effect is uniquely captivating.

The drama begins when Irina spoils her son’s performance - and from thereon after everything goes downhill; tempers flare, relationships are tested, people are pushed to their limits and romances hit the rocks whilst everyone suffers from self-doubt… and there isn't much light at the end of the tunnel. Chekhov’s play is character driven, and the strong cast of Matthew Dunster's fine-tuned production certainly excel in their roles. The comedy and over dramatisation shines through; however, the piece is appropriately poignant when necessary. 

Dee is currently one of theatre's most in demand stars; she recently completed a run in Ah, Wilderness! at the Young Vic and will soon head off to Bath to star in a musical adaptation of Mrs Henderson Presents. As far as I'm concerned Dee can do no wrong - she always gives a knockout performance. Here Dee demands attention with her bold portrayal of Irina Arkadina. At first she steals the biggest laughs, but later she delves into her character to find truth, conveying desperation and despair. Her performance is not to be missed.

Christopher Shutt's sound design is striking and, as the sun sets, Philip Gladwell's lighting design brings focus, adding to the magical atmosphere. Hot on the heels of the spellbindingly brilliant Peter Pan, The Seagull is yet another triumph for the Open Air - this season at Regent's Park is shaping up to be one of the theatre’s best yet. 

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

The Seagull runs at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre until Saturday 11th July 2015.
Please visit www.openairtheatre.com for further information and tickets.


Photo Credit: Johan Persson

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