Shivered, returns to Southwark Playhouse's main house to tackle Chekhov, bringing with him one of that show's stars, Joseph Drake. The play is my favourite Chekhov, The Seagull, and for this modern-day version Bolam uses a first foray into adapting classic texts from rising playwright Anya Reiss. The setting is an island that may or may not be the Isle of Man, and celebrated stage actress Arkadina (Sasha Waddell) is staying for the summer with her elderly brother Sorin (Malcolm Tierney.) Arkadina's son Konstantin (Drake) feels as if his mother resents him, and tries to get out of her shadow by writing plays, the first of which will be premiered for an exclusive audience of family and friends, and star Nina (Lily James,) the neighbour he's in love with. When this performance goes awry, it provides a turning point for Konstantin's rather fragile mental state, and sets off a tragic chain of events.
So far this year I've seen opposite extremes of how to stage the Russian playwright's work: The current West End Vanya is a big, soulless period piece, while in the autumn Three Sisters was brought up to date in an expressionistic staging. This Seagull sits somewhere between the two, with Reiss' text updating the action to the present day, but a fairly naturalistic staging from Bolam. The updating seems not to have been to everyone's taste, but I didn't have a problem with it, Reiss' mentions of mobile phones and laptops largely kept to why these can't be used to avoid some of the characters' miscommunications (some day mobile phone networks will be completely reliable, and writers will have to find something other than "no signal" to create drama. And horror movies will be completely buggered.)
The Seagull by Anton Chekhov in a version by Anya Reiss is booking until the 1st of December at Southwark Playhouse.
Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes including interval.