I walked out of The Seagull. Twice. Because it was dreadful. Let me explain.
At the end of the first half, so overcome was I with grief at having wasted a good hour of my life on such an ugly and charmless production that I left the theatre, intending not to return. Alas, self-doubt crept in, so I wandered back reluctantly to see out the second half, satisfied at least that in so doing I could confirm to myself that The Seagull is up there with What’s Wrong With Angry as the very worst a Cambridge cast can produce. So sure was I of this conclusion within minutes of the second half, that after 20 of them had elapsed, I high-tailed it out of there for good. And I must say, I don’t regret it at all. It really was a dreadful production.
For starters, it looked awful. No detail of set or costume design had escaped the claws of what can only be described as a drab and unimaginative aesthetic, and an absurd lack of consistency. Jacob Shepherd looked like a ridiculous pantomime scarecrow, and Laurie Coldwell wore a Barbour and Wellies. I suppose this was part of the project to ‘re-imagine Chekhov’s greatest play for a modern audience’, which seems to have consisted mainly in crow-barring in a few swear words, and Joey Batey calling Victoria Ball ‘mum’. It’s bold stuff.
Now, I am of course being very mean. And rightly so. But that isn’t to say that there weren’t good things in this show. Genevieve Gaunt is a very attractive girl, and does some very good acting. Victoria Ball does exactly what is required of her, for which I commend her. Joey Batey and Lily Cole both broadly made sense of their parts, but would both have benefited from firmer direction. Jacob Shepherd and Laurie Coldwell are both basically charmless, in what ought really to be charming parts. And Simon Haines played Simon Haines. Which was refreshing.
Certainly there are bad actors in this show, and it looks bad and (how am I only getting to this now) the audio choices are horrible, but what really lifted me off my seat and out of the door was the blandness of it all. And no, it isn’t clever and poignant, it’s melodramatic and stupid. But what do I know? I didn’t even make it to the end.