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Friday, 4 February 2011

The Seagull at The Oxford Playhouse

A chance to see Chekhov should never be missed... and so, when invited to see my friend in The Seagull at the Oxford Playhouse, I accepted, despite the inconvenient location and the fact that I was reaching near exhaustion.

I was picked up by car straight after work in an attempt to get to Oxford on time. We were immediately confronted by ghastly traffic crawling along at an excruciatingly slow pace. Taking deep breaths, the calmer passengers suggested we begin preparing for the worst – we may not make the first half. And yet, we did make it, with two minutes to spare, just in time to see the exciting raising of the curtain.

Chekhov's work explores behaviour and feeling, poignantly put in his statement: ‘All I wanted to say to people quite honestly was: Look at yourselves.’

On that premise we are introduced, in The Seagull, to a wildly enthusiastic writer who tries in vain to make his mark on the world. A tortured soul, he faces rejection from the two women he adores: his selfish melodramatic mother (once a great actress) and a young girl, Nina (aspires to be a great actress) with whom he is hopelessly in love and for whom he writes his scripts.

The student cast is exceptionally strong, with not a hesitant line spoken or a foot out of place. No-one can deny the talent of these young adults. I found the female characters particularly impressive. Bella Hammad is breathtaking as the young Nina, the writer’s sweetheart. She has a fresh unassuming beauty, and tall stature that makes her immediately striking on stage. Her final speech is mesmerising; she has the ability to stand still and portray the character’s despair with complete clarity, no movement is needed.

I also loved watching Ruby Thomas as the sullen Masha, she acts with a natural ease. Her voice is deep and moody and suits the role; wearing all black, she reminded me of the mysterious Wednesday from the Addams Family. Music graduate Laura Nakhla is tremendous as the mean mother Irina Nikolayevna Arkadina toying with the men in her life with hilarious malice and melodrama. Her voice didn’t seem to quite hold out, sounding a little weak at times, I wondered if she was getting ill.

Of the men, I was most enthralled by Matt Gavan as the old and weary Peter Sorin. Complete with his very own real beard and fuzzy hair, he looks just the part. I was told he used the walking stick around Oxford for weeks before the show to familiarise himself with it, and I have to say this bit of method acting pays off – he is scarily convincing as a senior citizen!

An amazingly professional production of a timeless classic, these are certainly young talents to watch out for. I am so glad I went.


  1. woww, sounds incredible!! i love when things like that happen (you're tired and not sure about doing something, and then it's wonderful and you don't regret it in the least).

  2. Oh, I haven't had the pleasure to see it. Yet. :S

  3. That's great, I love it!
    Nice post!

    ...OH MY VOGUE!

  4. such great review, milly. i love reading people's insights about drama and literature works, it makes my mind ticks.
    i find this post really inspiring !