Chekhov’s play The Seagull marks the birth of the modern age. Melodrama was the standard fare when he wrote it in 1895 but Chekhov let go of melodramatic effect. What he seems to be trying to capture is the natural cadence of everyday conversations, a type of realism. When he wrote The Seagull this was a new thing.
The Seagull has the sense of being set in Russia but if you listen to what they say the language sounds very now. Director Anthony Skuse wanted to create a world for the play to exist in, so the actors are wearing contemporary clothing but it’s a world unto itself, it fits both here and now.
Chekhov has a great ear for human foibles and quirks. He calls this play a comedy in the subtitle, Seagull – A Comedy, but when he uses the term comedy, it’s different to our concept which is funny one liners and gags. What he’s meaning is a disposition or point of view. There’s an optimism in the way the characters move forward and overcome life’s burdens, as opposed to a tragic disposition where they might say, “I’m going to kill myself.”
Chekhov also poses a question about the importance of faith, whether it’s faith in your course of action, faith in the people around you, faith in this difficult moment to arrive at the next or faith in someone above, because if you don’t have faith, what you’re left with is despair, and that’s a tragic frame of mind.
“One of the best things about The Seagull is the diverse cast, it’s not just Anglo-Saxon actors. Theatre is about representing the world we live in and we made an effort to cast more broadly,” said the play’s director Anthony Skuse.
Dec 6-16. The Depot Theatre, 142 Addison Rd, Marrickville. $22-$32+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.thedepottheatre.com
By Mel Somerville.