Review: King Lear/The Seagull ~ theatre notes

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Review: King Lear/The Seagull

King Lear by William Shakespeare and The Seagull by Anton Chekhov, directed byTrevor Nunn. Designed by Christopher Oram, lighting design by Neil Austin, music composed by Stephen Edis, sound design by Fergus O’Hare. With Ian McKellan, Frances Barber, Monica Dolan, William Gaunt, Romolo Garai, Richard Goulding and other members of the RSC. Royal Shakespeare Company @ the State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, until August 5. Bookings: 1300 136 166.

It’s fair to say that your expectations can sometimes obscure what you are actually watching on stage. When I excitedly donned my gladrags to see Trevor Nunn’s production of King Lear, I was expecting a polished, if no doubt conservative, example of English classical theatre.

The last thing I expected of one of Shakespeare’s most unrelentingly grim tragedies was a kind of comic opera, complete with Gilbert and Sullivan costumes, overblown set and arch winks at the audience. From the moment the Vincent Price organ music swelled up in the auditorium, signalling a starched procession of regal costumes across the stage, my heart sank into my pointy little shoes.

Sir Ian McKellen’s Lear should be the culmination of a distinguished Shakespearean career which includes Nunn’s stunning 1970s RSC production of Macbeth and his famous performance in Richard Eyre’s Richard III (both, fortunately for us antipodeans, available on DVD). And you can see gleams of a great performance here, a moving portrayal of a powerful man brought to impotence and madness through age and his own folly.

But it is obscured by a mystifyingly mannered production. It is as if Nunn is terrified of ambiguity: every single line in the play seems to have been scoured and then expanded on stage into vignettes of gratuitous detail that distract from the drama, the poetry – and, ultimately, the truth – of the play.

If a letter is referred to, it must be unfolded and perused, whether the text demands this or not. When Edmund (Philip Winchester) is wounded after his faked swordfight with Edgar (Ben Meyjes), not one but two serving maids must emerge from the wings to bandage his arm as he speaks. If someone mentions the gods (which happens a lot in this play) eyes must be cast upwards to the flies. Goneril’s (Frances Barber) poisoning of her sister Regan (Monica Dolan) is signalled by her stealing a vial from a doctor’s case, and rolling her eyes in mock innocence as she showily spikes the wine. Notoriously, if we are speaking of man as a “poor bare forked animal”, Lear has to get his gear off (and Poor Tom, on his back, has to imitate a fork).

And if a Fool is to be hanged, then he must be hanged on stage just before interval, thus destroying what is for me the beautifully tender ambiguity of Lear’s later lament “And my poor fool is hanged!” Which you could argue refers more to Cordelia than to the Fool (and most fruitfully, that it resonates with both meanings, since it’s suspected that originally both parts were played by the same actor).

It’s not at all clear why Nunn decided to set Lear in a Russian court - it adds nothing to the meaning of the play – but it does mean rowdy cossacks having rowdy cossack revels. And also those gold-braided cossies. Nunn’s penchant for leaden illustration is matched by a stunningly literal soundscape that does all but bark when they mention the dogs of war, and which wavers schizophrenically between sound effects like drums and horses neighing, light opera music and the obligatory thundercracks.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that many of the performances seem constrained. They’re even at times difficult to hear. McKellen’s Lear is by no means bad, although sometimes McKellen inclines to ham, but its moments of pure power and pathos – such as the scene where, on the verge of madness, he curses Goneril and stutters into impotence – make the production only the more frustrating.

At its worst, Shakespeare’s great meditation on mortality and the carnal ruthlessness of power is reduced to a comedy about a mad old man. The performances all have their moments – this is no mean cast, after all – but for the most part, only the smaller roles – John Heffernan’s Oswald or Ben Meyjes’s Edgar – give us glimpses of more profound possibilities.

It seems like Shakespeare-lite, a chocolate box production for the tourists. I sat through one of the most traumatising plays in the canon with barely a flicker of feeling, wondering if I was witnessing the decadence of the contemporary British stage.

The following night, I approached The Seagull with some trepidation. Although it’s generally considered an early masterpiece overshadowed by Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard, it stands with Lear as one of my favourite plays. Perhaps it’s purely personal: I think that, in The Seagull, Chekhov gets it right about the pursuit of art. He mercilessly exposes the futility, vanity and pettiness of its pretensions, while at the same time revealing the unforgiving demands of artistic vocation, which require the courage to resist cynicism, even when all illusions have been burned away and when faith rests on nothing at all.

Luckily, Nunn redeems himself with a superb production. Where King Lear is silted up with fussy detail, The Seagull ripples with light and clarity, bringing Chekhov’s lyrical masterpiece to passionate life. Perhaps Nunn is more comfortable with Chekhov’s tough but humane vision than with the brutal bleakness of Lear: certainly, he directs this play with a fluent hand, acutely judging its balance of light and shade, tragedy and comedy.

Christopher Oram’s set, overbearing and inflexible in Lear, becomes an airy thing of light, wood, water and stone, both a cosy domestic space and rural idyll. And Fergus O’Hare's soundscape is a delicate counterpoint to the action, rather than a disconnected series of sound effects. Strangely, since this is a naturalistic production of a naturalistic play, there is much less fussing about with props. Or perhaps it’s simply that Nunn’s obsessive detailing here unobstrusively plumps out the action, rather than being pasted on top of it.

There’s one lapse; no doubt wanting to rhyme his staging of the hanging of Lear’s Fool, Nunn decides to ignore Chekhov’s tactful dramaturgy, in which Konstantin’s suicide attempt occurs off-stage. Nunn enacts it for us just before the interval, cuing a bunch of stage rhubarb as shocked peasants crowd on to the set. But given the deft handling of the whole, and in particular its reading of the complex feeling of the text, I’ll forgive him.

In The Seagull I saw the McKellen I was hoping to see – the virtuosic actor at the full stretch of his abilities, glowing in the midst of a distinguished ensemble. McKellen’s ruefully aging Sorin is irresistible, performed with delicacy, feeling and superb comic timing, and, if he were not matched by his colleagues, McKellen would be in danger of stealing the show.

There are no small parts in Chekhov, and the cast is uniformly strong; but Monica Dolan, as the hard-bitten and heartbroken Masha (“I am in mourning for my life”) stands out for the nuanced irony and restrained pain of her performance. And the night probably belongs to Frances Barber, who gives us an Arkadina of profound complexity. She’s a monstrously narcissistic aging actress whose vanity breaks into shards of vicious wit or sheer panic: manipulative, ruthless, charming and vulnerable. And very funny.

As the young artists whose ideals collide brutally with experience, Konstantin (Richard Goulding) and Nina (Romolo Garai) carry the tragic passions of the play. Goulding’s Konstantin is a young man trapped in childhood, still at the mercy of his mother’s capricious approval, and is at once petulant, absurd and tragic. And Romolo Garai is a thrillingly fearless Nina, whose innocence blazes even as her sanity shatters against a cruel and indifferent world.

In her throbbing musicality, Garai reminds me of Melita Jurisic’s unforgettable performance of Sonya in an MTC production of Uncle Vanya in the early 1990s. The difficult final scene, where Nina is almost mad with the extremity of her anguish, is performed with a beautiful modulation, revealing at once Nina’s joy at her discovery of the true meaning of her vocation and its bitter, almost fatal, price. She’s a tough Nina who, for all the damage she suffers, refuses to be a haplessly broken victim. And, although it’s an impertinence, I’ll take the liberty of claiming that Chekhov would have approved.

Picture: Sir Ian McKellen as King Lear. Photo: Manuel Harlan

A shorter version of this review appeared in today's Australian


Anonymous said...

Accurate, intelligent and perceptive beyond the ordinary. Clarified for me what was until I read this review, a simmering dissatisfaction with the Lear. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have just forwarded you review to an actor friend who directed a recent production of "Lear" here in Sydney. Would that we had a critic of your perception up here...

Anonymous said...

I've got no involvement or expertise in theatre but I found this a very strange review. I haven't seen either play yet but in this review I was struck by comments like "When Edmund (Philip Winchester) is wounded after his faked swordfight with Edgar (Ben Meyjes), not one but two serving maids must emerge from the wings to bandage his arm as he speaks." I hope I never become so knowlegeable, deeply perceptive and analyical about the theatre that my experience is ruined by there being two maids rather than one doing the bandaging. And early on there is the comment "From the moment the Vincent Price organ music swelled up in the auditorium, signalling a starched procession of regal costumes across the stage, my heart sank into my pointy little shoes." Given what follows, it almost sounds like you took a set against the production of Lear from square one and went looking for minitua to carp about, such as the number of maids doing the bandaging. I know that is a harsh assessment of the review but anyway, that is how the tone struck this naive "outsider".

Geoffrey said...

Well that's very nice anonymous (Sydney), but you just keep your hands of our Ms Croggon. Forewarned is forearmed. We will do everything within our power to defend her against marauding invaders from the the north.

Besides, don't you honestly think she'd be a bit bored up there ... with what is it, a couple of plays a week?

Alison Croggon said...

Never fear, Geoffrey, I will stand firm against the blandishments of Sydney!

NTG, if you're planning to go, do let us know what your responses are. All I can say is that if I'm a crrritic, it's my job not only to be there as concentratedly as possible, to enter the experience as much as I can, but also to be knowledgeable and to analyse; as Kenneth Tynan put it, not only to see what's there but also what's missing. I have no axe to grind: I was desperately disappointed by this Lear, and I wanted it to be good. I know people - including my father - who really enjoyed it, but for me it was the play at 60 per cent wattage.

But to explain a little: my point is that actually Edmund's arm doesn't need bandaging at all, and all the fuss around him means you lose focus on what he's actually saying. And this dissipates the power of the play.

King Lear should break your heart into smithereens. Try and get hold of the vid of Scofield's Lear, directed by Peter Brook (and if you find it, let me know where - I want a copy!) - or a more recent one I really liked, a National Theatre production featuring Ian Holm directed by Richard Eyre, which even on a tv screen is gruelling. And then see what you think.

Anonymous said...

"NTG, if you're planning to go, do let us know what your responses are."

I'm going to Lear tonight, Seagull tomorrow. I don't expect to really appreciate Lear simply because I am not sufficiently familiar with the vocabulary and phrasing to even always understand what is being said--sometimes it is almost as though I need (contemporary) English sub-titles. So I don't think any comments I'd have would be worth anything. As for the Seagull, I love Chekhov and I'm convinced that my expectations are so high that I'll be massively disappointed.

Alison Croggon said...

You should be able to appreciate Lear even if you know nothing about it...I really think that Shakespeare is that sort of playwright (he wrote for the GP, remember, even if he wrote stunning poetry while doing so). I love the play and have read it many times, knows bits of it by heart &c, and of course that conditions my responses - but I really don't think going to the theatre should be like a school examination, or something you have to qualify for. As for the Chekhov - report back if you have time, I'm very interested in what you think. I saw the amazing Moscow Arts Theatre production that played years ago here, and I don't think Nunn's as straight-up stunning as that one (bits of that production seared into my heart, and I'll never forget that Nina) - but I do think this one very fine.

Anonymous said...

NTG, I hope you do appreciate Lear. And while you're sitting there tonight, remember that there are starving artists in East St Kilda who would've killed for your ticket.

Geoffrey said...

Oh yes! The Moscow Arts Theatre production! They used the entire stage surface of the State Theatre (no mean feat!) and at about one third of the way through I, like many others around me, discarded their headsets (through which the English language translation was being spoken) and bathed, undone, in its glory.

I was also one of the members of the audience still sitting in my seat half an hour after the performance had ended. Paralysed by the experience of it compelte beauty and theatrical unity.

I have not seen a production of The Seagull since. I have no need to. I have 'seen' it, 'heard' it and 'felt' it and will remember it for the rest of my life.

Casey Bennetto said...


Google is your friend.

Alison Croggon said...

Damn! I knew somebody would find it, and now I have to buy it.

The Moscow Arts Theatre Chekhov was very awesome, but I guess Nunn's production has the advantage of being in English (the MTC production of The Seagull a few years ago was also good, you know, but you'd have to pull something out of the hat to push aside the Russians). I took the precaution of reading the play just before I saw it - no way was I wearing those headphones and alienating myself from the production. The thing about really great theatre is that the language doesn't matter; you attend to other things if you don't understand the words, and it still communicates. I saw a brilliant production of Brecht's Fear and Misery in the Third Reich in French without understanding a word, and was riveted - very French, in that it was three hours and no interval, but it was so clearly performed and directed I was never lost.

Anonymous said...

I did go to Lear last night. As I've said, I've got no involvement or expertise in the theatre, so these comments are probably not even half baked, maybe more like 10% baked. I had some reservations about some bits of it but it didn't strike me as a kind of "comic opera". As an example of something I was doubtful about, some of the portrayal of the "shouting" Lear seemed a bit overdone. On the other hand, I thought that when there was a more "subdued" Lear being played, particularly during the last hour or so, it was often very moving.
And there were other bits that struck me as a bit incongruous, e.g., when Goneril breaks down crying after Lear tells her that he hopes she is barren or has a thankless child. Goneril breaking down seemed rather out of character for her, she generally seems made of sterner and colder stuff.
There were some comedic aspects, e.g., quite a bit of the Fool. But the people I was with, who know the play much better than I, seemed to think that was appropriate for the role. I don't know what the general view of that is.

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks, NTG - from the reviews I've read, mainly UK ones, the general response to the Fool (one of the great roles), whether they liked the production or not, is puzzlement, a feeling that no one is sure why he's done that way, and that it took out of the role most of its sharpness and poignancy. I'm more or less with the puzzled ones, myself.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Great review(s) as usual, Alison, lovely late afternoon reading. Your word 'leaden' is perfect for the kind of literal-mindedness you describe and give examples of (and of which I share your dislike) -- and besides, surely all that over-explanatory stage business further slows down what is already a fairly talky play?

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that Miss Croggin found it in herself to forgive Trevor Nunn for failing to provide her with an entertainment more suitable.

Alison Croggon said...

Ms Croggon is a harmless, gentle soul, really.

Mr Billington, on the other hand, thunders that this particular lapse of taste is "unforgivable". Will Nunn make it through the gates of heaven, with such angelic swords at each shoulder? Who knows?

Anonymous said...

"Her voice was ever soft, gentle and low."

was her banishment by Playbox/Malthouse as unjust as Cordelia's

Alison Croggon said...

Think'st thou that duty shall have dread to speak
When power to flattery bows? To plainness honour's bound
When majesty falls to folly...

Anonymous said...

"We are not the first who with best intent have incurred the worst"?

Alison Croggon said...

That was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead. Or Playbox is, anyway. Having spent a fair part of yesterday looking at photographs from Tuong Sleng, the most notorious of Pol Pot's prisons and torture centres, I'm inclined to think that being banned by a theatre doesn't count among the "worst". :)

On Stage And Walls said...

I saw Lear for the second time last night after having watched the matinee of "The Seagull" while sitting close by to McKellen himself (yikes!).

I thought “Seagull” was very well done. I loved the way it ended with Arkadina's self satisfied laugh, that same laugh she emitted with her satisfaction on getting her way every time (I wonder though if Francis Barber wasn't taking the mickey out of Judi Dench - they have similar voices and features). I remember well Simon Phillips in that MTC production having that music play out that seemed to go on forever when Dorn and Trigorin were supposed to be getting Arkadina out out of the room but instead she just sat there 'rhubarbing' while the audience wondered what was going on.
Monica Dolin was a superb Masha and she managed to cut through the morbid drinking, snuff taking, drunken staggering and other characteristics that often get her laughed at by the audience, to make her one of the best characters in the play.
I liked too the playing of Kolya’s suicide attempt onstage and Masha’s desperate cry as she struggled with him was something I won’t forget in a long time. I even like the music that quietly began before the scene and built up to an almost too obvious level. Considering it was acted in what Sir I called “a great barn of a theatre” it managed to keep itself quite small and intimate. He is pleased and thinks that it will be work in very big theatres like the State and some of the theatres it will play in the USA (all much bigger that the Stratford and London theatres where it will play and be revived next year).

I also liked the text illustrations in Lear. I didn’t mind that every time a letter was mentioned one was produced. I loved Kent proffering Lear a plate of food just before he utter the line “I’ll go to supper in the morning”. I questioned the melodramatics of Goneril poisoning the wine onstage (she had not seen that doctor’s case but knew immediately that there was bottle of poison in it because she opened the case and took it out in one sweep without even looking. But I like how Nunn connected it with Regan’s always being counted on to going for a second glass.
I wasn’t too crazy about hammering home the ‘Poor Fool’ being hanged. I noticed that the ‘Albion’ speech was gone and wondered why it had been cut when the Fool’s part is so brief anyway but I was shocked to see him arrested with Gloucester. I didn’t think the device worked though, partly because Sylvester McCoy was very one dimensional in his acting (considering too that RSC Fools over the last twenty years have included controversial interpretations by actors of the likes of Anthony Sher).

I liked McKellen’s Lear a lot too, how he plotted the tragedy through the Lear’s realisation of his big mistake and his realisation too that he is venerable and even tender. How moving it was in the Dover scene with the blind Gloucester to see the King’s madness lift quickly when Gloucester broke down crying. He stopped suddenly and said quietly “I know thee well enough, thy name is Gloucester” and then how the two old and deceived men sat and cried, Gloucester in abject sorrow and Lear, forcing that incredible wolf’s howl to try and cry – something Lear may never have done in his long life. I loved in the last scene how Kent’s “Break, heart” line, urging Lear to die and finally end his suffering was the climax of the Lear’s death (I was close enough to see McKellen’s head roll back and his chest collapse on those lines).

The RSC have a massive audience and, yes, one comprised of tourists as well as (for want of a better word) intelligent theatregoers. The directors are faced with an almost inbuilt demand for innovation and reinterpretation of the text as well as keeping it understandable. I wouldn’t fancy being Trevor!

Anonymous said...

"How moving it was in the Dover scene with the blind Gloucester to see the King’s madness lift quickly when Gloucester broke down crying. He stopped suddenly and said quietly “I know thee well enough, thy name is Gloucester” and then how the two old and deceived men sat and cried, Gloucester in abject sorrow and Lear, forcing that incredible wolf’s howl to try and cry – something Lear may never have done in his long life."

You picked out the scene that moved me most in the whole play. When I said earlier that I found the "subdued" Lear often very moving, it was scenes like this I had in mind, with this one being the highlight. I didn't need many moments like that to make me very glad I was there.

On Stage And Walls said...

Bingo mate! And that's (for me) the essence of the tragedy. That scene is powerful enough. Image how Edgar must feel, walking with his mutilated father, not telling him his identity, and then listening to that defeated speech as the old man thinks his about to throw himself to his death but only to live and join with Lear in lamenting the loss of humanity.

Alison Croggon said...

Gloucester jumping off the "cliff" is certainly one of the most beautiful scenes in the play. (Cordelia's reunion with Lear is another that mirrors that complex tenderness, it can move me to tears). I wish I had been able to feel it so keenly.

Anonymous said...

My experience of the 31st differs so extrodanarily, I have avoided professional Shakespear performance for nearly three years now due to constant dissapointment, my return to the fray was not without apprehension.
Its a rare moment when in an age of instant entertainment I happily drowned in the RSC company performance, men around me openly wept and McKellans descent into maddness from a headache (whispers?) to abandonment of senses was one of the most remarkable performances I have ever seen on stage. I fell in love with Shakespear again last night. That is an extrodinary thing.

Alison Croggon said...

Yes, Eamon (and others here) - it is an extraordinary, and wonderful, thing when theatre works like that for you. And I feel that I want to make clear that, different though my responses were - aside from brief moments, mostly to do with McKellen's performance, I found this production strangely unmoving - that doesn't, and can't, invalidate the very real feelings you had while you watched the performance. I'm delighted to have people here sharing their own experiences of the play; it shows what a complex and rich experience theatre is! And it also confirms my feeling, a conviction I've had for a long time, that a critique is the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one.

Anonymous said...

Methinks the lady doth protest too much

Alison Croggon said...

Funny how the narky comments here are all by Anonymous. I quite understand why some people wish to remain anonymous, and Anon and his siblings often contribute generously to discussion here. So I haven't changed the settings. But sheesh. Sometimes I'm tempted.

I'm on the record for years as saying that what we need in this town is a generous and diverse discourse about theatre. I have spoken to many people who have said they're shy to post here, and I understand it can be intimidating when I (a) have my own very particular opinions and (b) will argue hotly to defend them, because I really enjoy arguing. What I don't want to do, in my arguments, is to put off people who disagree with me from posting. And I just wanted to make clear that disagreement is welcome.

Fwiw, I think one of the hallmarks of a civilised society is in how it negotiates difference. And one of my ideals for the blog - however it turns out in practice - is for it to be a civilised place.

Alison Croggon said...

PS Also, emotional responses to theatre are private and delicate, and so are often what people feel most shy about expressing. And just as mine are real, so are those of other people. Myself, I think the emotional exchange that is possible in a theatre is one of the things that makes it unique and deeply human. I would never question another's emotional response, and I hope that others would not question mine, however deeply they might disagree with my analyses or takes on a particular work.

Now I'm really protesting too much. But I do feel rather offended: it's my good faith you're questioning here, Anon, and this blog is built on nothing else. Next time you feel like taking a poke at me, perhaps you could be a little brave and use your real name.

Geoffrey said...

Thou grumblest, Anon, and railest every hour on Achilles,
and thou art as full of envy at his greatness as
Cerberus is at Proserpine's beauty."

- Troilus and Cressida

Anonymous said...

And what happened to Cressida?

Anonymous said...

Funnily enough, Alison, I'm with you on this one. (That said, we reach out conclusions via different paths.) After half an hour -- a blissful first half hour -- I decided this was a perfect first Lear. It reminded me of The Old Vic's Hamlet with Derek Jacobi (1979?!) as the Dane. I hated DJ's mincing Hamlet, with a passion, but it was the most clear and easily understood production of the play I've seen.

So, I didn't mind the overexposition (if that's what it was). But the madder McKellan got, the less engaged I felt.

By the end of the play I had to qualify my "best first Lear" ruling. Best first, only if understanding the language was first priority. Understanding the tragedy and horror would take a "more definitive" King.

Alison Croggon said...

Do you think you understood the language? I thought most of the time it didn't make sense, it hardly ever - except in the odd moment - rang with any clarity of truthfulness. Will Gaunt seemed to gain a speech impediment after his eyes were gouged out, shomething happened to his shibilants, but I have a feeling he was just being Tragic. Kent - one of the most affecting roles in the play - made no sense at all, and once or twice even made me want to giggle. Especially when he pulled that gun out at the end. But blah. I've said my piece on this.

Brook's Hamlet with Adrian Lester has the kind of clarity I mean.

Anonymous said...

The gun, god, what was that about. I refused to clap until I heard the shot! Waiting, waiting...

Having once played Horatio (I was wondrous strange), I assumed this was one of those "I am more an antique Roman than a Dane/Here's yet some liquor left" self-slaughter moments. LOL!

Anonymous said...

a point of order... it wasn't a wolf's howl, it was the howl of a newborn. ("We came crying hither;/Thou know'st, the first time that we smell the air/We wawl and cry.")

Anonymous said...

just testing the system.

Anonymous said...

"And Romolo Garai is a thrillingly fearless Nina ......"

"In her throbbing musicality, Garai ......"

Nina presented insurmountable problems for me, exemplified by the long scene with Trigorin. She seemed to be stuck in a rut - emotionally, physically and in voice. The Trigorin scene should be a delight. For me it sadly became tedious. The other 1500 odd in the audience seemed to tolerate it politely but nothing to indicate anything more than that.
I also wonder if Trigorin was unable to escape the rut or populated it with her voluntarily.
It was a welcome relief from Nina's colourless, strident delivery, when in her last scene, she was able to use an angry voice. What a wonderfully exotic name - Romolo Garai.

Anonymous said...

"What a wonderfully exotic name - Romolo Garai."

If you want to see her on screen, she is in "Amazing Grace", currently showing. She plays the woman who marries William Wilberforce.

BigNick said...

I find it fascinating that NTG, Bardassa, Alison and my own reactions to the Gloucester/Lear scene at Dover are all very similar. I was almost brought to tears by that scene, by the sheer commited vulnerability of a father, a son and the deposed King of a realm. Almost worthy of putting up in my top theatre moments, along with Nonso Anozie as Othello in the final scene of Cheek By Jowls production. Now, if Declan Donellan (who for my money is the best director of classical text alive) directed this Lear, I don't think the demonstrative choices made by the actors would have been supported. If any of you have read "The Actor and the Target" you'll know he is about stripping things back. I was disheartened by the lack of energy and use of space in the "Blow Winds" speech as I've always seen that as a frustrated man letting loose on the world...basically I was sitting in row F of the stalls and it didn't even reach me. At least they had real rain, but is that a reason for stayed and energyless acting? No.

Would have loved to have seen the Seagull but funds did not permit.

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Oh Be Still thy beating heart!
I am not a Shakespeare goer nor
overpunctified pontificator of both
plays of the Seagull and King Lear.

Unfortunately I was my own melodrama
in in the audience of King Lear
and did not really get into the
production till after the second half.

I would dearly love to see King Lear close and personal from
the proximaty of the stage and appreciate even more if I had the opportunity to do so. I saw before
me the voice of professionalism
in Sir Ian McKellen and his well
endowerment quite prolifically.
But the underlying performance
was William Gaunt as Gloucester,
I wish I could be Anonymous, but that would lead me to be incognito!

With such grace and elecution, he was absolutely a delight to watch on stage, so was the Mr McCoy.

I was also very fortunate to see the Seagull, in a matinee performance with Mr Gaunt as Sorrin. I was in my own element
in the front of the audience
watching his performance with
such pleasure as the man can deliver! I found Frances Barber
and Monica Dolan great! I found
Ramola Garai..somewhat whining
in her delivery, but perhaps that
was her part. I am sure with
many more performances up her sleeve, she will deliver perfectly.
After a world slog tour all the RSC actors will be perfection, does not one think? I think there is something in that for everyone.......don't you think?

Please continue your Shakespearian
conversation as I humbly bow out
and wish them well in New Zealand.
All I can say is why did I have
to suffer the coldness of Melbourne? It was with great
relief leaving that city....or should I say Karachi? I presume
I am being chased out..In good

Anonymous said...

Two hours ago I returned home from the RSC production of "The Seagull" at Brooklyn Academy of Music with William Gaunt as Sorin. Like August 11 I found Romola Garai's sometimes grating - but real pathos emerged in her final scene with Konstantin, despite a few too many trembling hands. She comes across as a good actress playing a quite deluded, lovely, idealistic and untalented actress. In contrast to other reviewers on this site, I found her performance did NOT portray a strong or redemptive Nina. She really was the seagull... and mad as Ophelia. Broken. A real standout for me was Monica Dolan as Masha. When the performance ended I had tears in my eyes and my throat tight and chokey - living with so much human misery for three hours was the opposite of escapism. Plus...the spoonfull of sugar to make the medicine go down - gratitude for a remarkable staging, a brilliant play, and ensemble acting of the highest order.