THEATRE REVIEW: Fine balance between a test of acting and entertaining

CHALLENGING CHEKHOV: Lily Bergin, Freya Theed, Rory Prestt, Charlotte Charleston-Stokes, Morgan Agate, Molly Riches and Alex Gilman in Act II Theatre Company's production of The Seagull by Anton Chekhov. Photo by Karl Gernert.

The Seagull, Act II Theatre Company, South Holland Centre, Spalding

There are several important points to consider when forming an opinion on Act II Theatre Company’s production of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull.

Firstly, as one member of the audience rightly pointed out during the interval of Thursday’s opening night performance, “it’s quite an amazing play to undertake when they have just finished the school year”.

Secondly, The Seagull saw Charlotte Gernert hand promotions (in terms of leading roles) to Rory Prestt (Stan or Constantine in Chekhov’s version) and Becky Girard as the elderly Sorin.

Thirdly, this was a tight a cast as you will get with an Act II production as just 11 young people occupied the stage, including Act II Drama Group graduates Lily Bergin and Tia Jarvis who moved up to the Advanced Skills set.

The play itself, set in 19th century Russia, brings a motley crew of individuals together, all of whom reflect on how life has dealt them a bad hand.

At its heart, the doomed love affair between Stan and Nina (Freya Theed) is acted out in a way that seems to confirm the restlessness of life experienced by the entire cast.

This gave rise to the play’s biggest challenge, how do you keep the pace up with a bunch of totally unsympathetic characters?

Act II deserve full marks for setting out, in the words of director Charlotte Gernert, “to push the group out of their comfort zone, give them fresh challenges and teach them new skills”.

Indeed, Rory, Becky, Lily and especially Freya showed themselves more than capable of immersing themnselves in their roles as we have come to expect with fellow cast members Alex Gilman (Manda/Masha), Charlotte Charleston-Stokes (Arkadina) and the limitless in potential Ashleigh Mills (Shem/Shamreyeff).

The Seagull would have worked perfectly for a group of English literature students interpreting Chekhov’s work.

But as a stage production for the common man, its entertainment value is more debatable as this show fell just short of the warmth, depth and tempo of more memorable Act II shows.

Review by Winston Brown

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