And so, from Platonov and Ivanov to the final play in the Young Chekhov trilogy: the work that marked the playwright’s development into a major dramatist while keeping hold of the youthful fire that had sustained his earlier pieces. The Seagull also happens to be my favourite play of all time, so despite having already seen two plays that day, I was still fresh and enthusiastic for the final piece of the puzzle.
Like the earlier plays, The Seagull takes place on a lush set, designed by Tom Pye, with running water and an abundance of trees. It is into this idyllic-seeming environment that a would-be playwright, Konstantin, is trying to create new forms of drama (starring the girl he loves, would-be actress Nina) against the mocking glare of his actress mother and her middlebrow-novelist lover.
The play is about the tensions between young and old, old and new, love and indifference, hope and despair. The cast lend themselves to the challenges: Olivia Vinall is the best Nina I have ever seen, moving effortlessly from youthful and naive, yet still with a tension about her that develops by the end of the play into a nervous quality that is almost painful to watch. It is plain to see how the travails of her life have affected her. Joshua James manages to make Konstantin youthful and petulant yet deeply sympathetic, craving the approval of his mother.
Thus concludes one of the most memorable days of my theatregoing life, an experience that was definitely worth the long wait I had to endure from the first announcement of the production at Chichester to its conclusion here in London at the National Theatre. It has reasserted my love for Chekhov and cemented my appreciation of him as one of the greatest dramatists to have ever existed.