By David Hennessy
Charm Offensive, the production company established by Irish director Gavin McAlinden, nominated for Best Director, Off West-End Awards 2012) have been presenting two Russian classics at Camden’s Theatro Technis. The Irish World got to see The Seagull and was blown away by performances by the up and coming actors who starred in Chekhov’s masterpiece.
The Seagull starts with Konstantin Treplyov preparing to show the play that he has written to a group of people that includes his own mother. His mother, Arkadina, played by Rosalind Blessed (daughter of Brian), does not take her son’s writing ambitions seriously and Konstantin doubts his mother truly accepts him. With his mother in a relationship with the famous writer Boris Trigorin, Konstantin craves any amount of the same respect he enjoys.
When his play is ridiculed, Konstantin is upset and all that consoles him are the kind words of Yevgeny Dorn who is a doctor and an intellectual and it seems the only one who gave his play a chance. Trigorin then takes Nina, who Konstantin loves. This drives Konstantin to try to shoot himself.
When Trigorin and Nina return, they return separately. In the meantime, they have had a baby, the baby has died and Trigorin has treated her badly. Konstantin is now a published writer, although his mother still hasn’t read his work. When Nina comes to call, Konstantin reveals how he has never stopped loving her but is heartbroken when Nina reveals she still loves the writer “more than ever”. Having tried to end it all once before, can Konstantin take the pain all over again?
The performances were striking. Alexander Neal , who plays Konstantin, is a compelling actor and every moment he is onstage, whether he is talking or silent, his power as an actor is thrilling to watch. So believable was his performance that when he charged at Nina, the object of his affection, with violent and passionate rage, you feared for her safety. You really sympathised for Konstantin at the end when he reeled from Nina’s declaration of love (but not for him) as his heartbreak was conveyed so well. This performance showed just why Neal has been nominated for Best Male at the Off West End Awards for his work on Sus at the Lion & Unicorn.
Emily Florence Hutchings also shines as Nina. She has a real energy that is evident from the start and the chemistry between Neal and Hutchings is magnetic to watch. She shows a range of emotions, returning in the latter part of the play as a much more mature and world-weary than the fresh faced and enthusiastic actress that we met before.
The best dialogue was uttered by David Weinberg as Trigorin. When Nina asks the writer what it is like to be a famous writer, he reveals he can never enjoy any moment for fear he should be finishing a story. This will strike a chord with any writers, musicians or other creative people. He then goes on to say how nothing he ever does is good enough, a mistake the minute it is on the stands. Again, creative people will absolutely be able to identify and this provides an insight into Mr Chekhov himself.
Claire Conroy was excellent as Masha who is pining for Konstantin while Rosalind Blessed was full of energy every time she appeared, showing the theatrics certainly run in the family. This production of The Seagull was deliberately stripped back in costume and set to allow performances to lead the way, and the performances were excellent. Look out for Charm Offensive when they do their three week rep season of Ivanov by Chekhov and Fortunes Fool by Ivan Turgenev in September.
For more information on Charm Offensive, see www.charmoffensive.org.uk or find them on facebook.