Review: Timeless Chekhov classic gets sensitive and intelligent adaptation on Leamington stage

The Seagull, Anton Chekhov’s comedy of unrequited love, is adapted and set in late Victorian England.

Nona Davies as Nina and Christopher Bird as Kit in The Seagull. Photo: Richard Smith Photography
Nona Davies as Nina and Christopher Bird as Kit in The Seagull. Photo: Richard Smith Photography

The Seagull, Anton Chekhov’s comedy of unrequited love, is adapted and set in late Victorian England.

The transposition does not change the essence of the play, which for a comedy, as Chekhov described it, is full of sadness and frustration. Indeed, there are few laughs. The comedy lies in the human condition, which is full of hope and laced with disappointment and tragedy. It is a moving, thoughtful play that will linger in the memory.

James Suckling, the director and adaptor of this sensitive, intelligent production, has dispensed with all Russian references and renamed the characters. Now we are in Cornwall on Peter Saunders (John Fenner) estate, where Irene Anderson (Dawn Suckling), an old friend and famous actress, likes to visit and where her son Kit (Christopher Bird), an aspiring writer, lives. Kit is in love with Nina (Nona Davies) who is herself in love with Irene’s lover Basil Trevelyan (Mark Ewbank), whom Kit loathes, not only for the sake of rivalry, but because Trevelyan is a successful writer of popular fictions. Trouble is, Kit’s own writings are deeply unfashionable, and he despises himself for his failures. Then, there’s Martha, daughter of the estate manager (Connor Bailey), who is in love with Kit and who, in desperation, unhappily marries local schoolteacher Simon Meadows (Sion Grace).

Most Popular

    The sadness of the play is in the indifference of the older characters, most of whom are too wrapped up in themselves to see the damage they are doing. Dawn Suckling is gorgeous as Irene, beautiful to look at but with an empty heart. She is, arguably, the only ‘star’ in an ensemble piece in which the whole must be, and is, greater than the sum of its parts. Beneath the stillness of the country atmosphere great passions are stirred in the longings of a younger generation for love and recognition. We know, of course, that that generation would soon be slaughtered in their millions, in part by the indifference of their elders.