When a work is immortalised as a classic, it is because the story portrayed continues to speak to new generations whose experiences live on inside the writer’s words.
The word ‘classic’ however can be daunting for potential audiences who feel they might not be able to understand a Shakespeare or a Chekhov or might be bored to death by an epic word-for-word indulgence. That is why directors such as Kate Wild (currently presenting Chekhov’s The Seagull) are important as curators with the power to connect every-day folk to the giants of theatre.
Wild’s The Seagull had an understated premier at the Metro Arts Warehouse (March 4) and her subtle adaptation, nip and tucks of the original text have born a masterful arrangement that speaks to any Australian who cares to listen.
Chekhov’s famous text dwells on the complexity of relationships within a seemingly simple plot and Wild has kept the stage also simple and stripped back – right down to her selection of venue. The Warehouse Space is a rustic old room atop a heritage listed building. The floor is warped old wood with over a century of footfalls echoing in its grain and the walls are whitewashed plaster of possibly endless depths. Props are minimal (floor lamps are used for lighting) and quietly rearranged while the small audience watches it all unfold to the sound of a solo guitar. It is an intimate and warm audience gathered to watch a play-within-play, to watch the fabric fray at the corners of a family reunion.
Young Kostya (Thomas Hutchins) is a writer full of important dreams and when his family holidays at a country estate he puts on a play, written by himself, for his family. Immediately ridiculed by his famous actress mother Irina (Louise Brehmer) the young man begins to unravel but his mother is more concerned with her lover’s (Matthew Filkins) wandering affections for a younger woman (Lizzie Ballinger) who happens to be the woman that Kostya had set his heart on. This is the core of the affair but there are more players with high stakes in the drama, and being of Russian composition, it can only end badly.
No doubt the success of this production lies on the shoulders of its impressive cast, the entirety of which are top-shelf talent; Louise Brehmer leads with an awesome performance of Irina and Matthew Filkins is suitably unlikable as the self-absorbed womaniser that brings her to her knees.
The Seagull is now playing until March 14 at Metro Arts and is well worth the hike up to the fourth floor. Seat numbers are limited though so book soon.