The Seagull review: A bare-bones production that is surprisingly persuasive

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Although conducted in the same minimal style as director Jamie Lloyd’s vibrant Cyrano de Bergerac, Chekhov’s comedy of failed aspiration requires a more intimate approach. The big draw here is the West End debut of Emilia Clarke, best known as the white-maned Daenerys Targaryen in Game Of Thrones. 

Back to her natural brunette as actress Nina, she looks uncannily like Billie Piper’s younger sister as she gazes adoringly at wannabe playwright Konstantin (Daniel Monks) whose (unseen) play is being assessed by family members.

Petty jealousies and romantic rivalries emerge as Chekhov, modishly translated by Anya Reiss, toys with the emotions of his provincial characters.

They include the imperious Arkadina (Indira Varma), a professional actress whose younger lover Trigorin (Tom Rhys Harries) graduates towards Nina; Gerald Kyd’s local doctor and ageing lothario Dorn, and gloomy spinster Masha (Sophie Wu, very funny as a monotone Goth). It’s all very mannered and strange.

Even stranger is how well Lloyd’s approach works. The deliberately low register of the speech – which requires radio microphones – is like hearing the character’s thoughts as they mumble to themselves or to the audience.

Whatever one’s opinion of the set, there are no weak links in the cast who perform in concert with the spirit of the enterprise.

Unlike many of the fidgety teenagers clearly disappointed that their heroine (in contrast with her GoT character) remained fully clothed, I found this bare-bones production surprisingly persuasive.

The Seagull… Harold Pinter Theatre until September 10 Tickets: 03330 096 690

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