The Seagull is one of the only Chekhov plays I really like but I never thought I'd like it quite as much as I did watching this version by Simon Stephens. His words teamed with Sean Holmes direction, leap off the page and the production breaths new life into the story teasing out the humour and in turn elevating the tragedy.
For a start this feel more like an ensemble piece rather than a story about Irina (Lesley Sharp) and Konstantin (Brian Vernel) - a former star actress clinging on to fame and her son seeking a career of his own. All the characters are fully formed and the result is a collective of human mistakes, heartbreak and foibles - and that is its power.
They are riddled with emotional injury, delusion, faults and seem hell bent on making or repeating mistakes; from Pauline's (Michele Austin) unrequited love for the doctor and Marcia's (Cherelle Skeete) for Konstantin to the way Irina can't help hurting her son. Even the doctor (Paul Higgins), with his sanguine remarks about having lived a full life, has a shadow of regret; there is something fatherly in the way he behaves with Konstantin that perhaps hints at a secret.
When Konstantin says, "unless you take great care of it, theatre can be the most tedious, old-fashioned, prejudiced, elitist form there is," it feels like he is giving theatreland a note and one that wasn't lost on the diverse and young audience that the Lyric attracts. It highlights the clash between the way things have always been done as represented by Irina and new thinking as represented by Konstantin but at the same time the way he calls Irina "mummy" hints at a desperation to please.
It is an ensemble of outstanding performances from Lesley Sharp's sexy, attention seeking and manipulative Irina to Adelayo Adedayo's effervescent, passionate and naive Nina and I'm giving it five stars.
Catch it at the Lyric Hammersmith until 4 November and it's three hours long.