Riot Act presents at the Courtyard Theatre a new version of The Seagull under the name The Misbegotten Hope of The Dirty Bird. It sounds bold, philosophical and avant-garde but actually there are few surprises and worthwhile changes to the original play.
Chekhov’s plays are a tough challenge not only for the players but also for the audience. These stories are exceedingly depressing as most of the characters live intense dilemmas and usually have miserable endings. They are trapped inside their own minds, unable to overcome their shortcomings, to escape their fate. However these plays only work because these characters are real and three-dimensional, there is something we recognise and so we don’t pity them but rather we empathise and care for them.
Unfortunately I didn’t come to care for Nina or Konstantin this time around. Nina, played here by Haeleigh Royall, is a flawed character, she is delusional and naive, but still she needs to captivate us and make us fall in love with her alongside Trigorin and Konstantin, and all I can see is a vain and superficial girl. Konstantin begs for attention but Chris Kendrick begs too much for our pity with his whims and sobs from the beginning of the play.
Justin Stahley delivers a plain Trigorin and Cheska Hill-Wood an insincere Irina. There are rare moments in which we feel something for these characters. Madeleine Dunne is compelling to watch as Masha, but I want to see more of her, more of her non-corresponded affection for Konstantin and her loosing all hope and settling for the teacher. Heidi Neimi as Paulina is witty and probably the most consistent character. Even though she hasn’t got much stage time, she can display a range of sincere emotions and reveal a lot about her character with very little.
Overall there are entertaining moments in this play, and a few others that are actually touching, but hardly more than a few. I have looked for a purpose for this re-interpretation of Chekhov’s classic but I could hardly find one that was valid enough. The only thing Whit Hertford does different, other than the cliché of bringing it to modern times, is the emphasis on Konstantin’s troubled mind, implying mental illness, depression and obsession.
Nina and Konstantin’s reunion and the desperate repetition of this moment inside Konstantin’s mind is the most intriguing part of this show, even though Chris Kendrick’s forced cries are robbing the moment’s intensity and distancing me as an audience member rather than engaging me further. I do enjoy the symbolism in this play that starts in Chekhov’s words and is highlighted in such an ending. However I would have enjoyed to see more of Hertford’s point of view as a director and writer rather than just another version of The Seagull that adds nothing or very little to its wonderful original. 3/5
Review written by Sofia Moura.
The Misbegotten Hope of the Dirty Bird is currently showing at the Courtyard Theatre until Tuesday 29th September. For more information on the production, visit here…