Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Notebook of Trigorin at the Finborough

Tennessee Williams’ “free adaptation” of Chekhov’s The Seagull was written near the end of his life. Williams was fascinated with Chekhov’s play and his version, transplanted to the American South, is infused with his own particular preoccupations. The characters are as much his as Chekhov’s. Arkadina is something of a one-note diva figure, domineering, vain and self-obsessed; she’s the kind of woman who hurls herself dramatically to the floor when she fears she won’t get her own way.

Trigorin is pushed into the foreground and is, by turns, far less submissive and more knowing; seemingly bisexual, he feels that the recognition of his feminine as well as masculine side is a necessary part of being a writer. Nina is delicate and pure yet easily led. Phil Willmott’s production of this intriguing yet difficult play is compelling yet also contains moments of real awkwardness.

While Carolyn Backhouse pitches things well, keeping Arkadina just the right side of caricature, and Stephen Billington’s Trigorin is suitably ambiguous, some of the performances waver. Nonetheless the production is elegantly staged, with Kim Alwyn and Aimee Sajjan-Servaes’s simple set inverted between acts so that the inside of the house becomes the garden and vice versa, and offers a rare chance to see a fascinating if flawed play.

Reviewed for The Stage

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