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After a recent staging of THE SEAGULL in the International Festival, Scottish audiences might feel they’ve had their fill of Chekhov’s classic. But Lithuanian director Rimas Tuminas feels he can offer a different angle on the play.
Words: Steve Cramer
f you've reached the age. as I
have. where some of your
friends have not only married. but divorced. you might be familiar with a syndrome that accompanies this kind of separation. There‘s a sense of pain. of trauma. and sometimes just plain rancour that prevents the victims from moving on. If you are unable. or much worse. unwilling. to forgive the person who hurt you. then you can’t move on. since there’s often little scope in people's lives for trust in the next relationship if
the last still occupies a large. bitter space in their
emotional landscape. What's this got to do with Chekhov? Loads.
The notable thing about his dramas is their
capacity to understand a humanity in his characters that allows him to forgive them. The characters’ emotional lives are frequently shattered: frustrated desire. unhappy separations and equally sad relationships reduce folk to ghosts. But it‘s nobody‘s fault. The business of being human means that people get hurt.
Such is the story of The Seagull. adapted here by Tom Stoppard. In it. the young writer Konstantin stages a new experimental play at his family house in rural Russia. starring his girlfriend Nina. the great love of his life. Nina begins to give Trigorin. an established writer and boyfriend of Konstantin's mother. the glad eye. and eventually runs off with him to Moscow. Of this central quartet. no one winds tip happy. each failing to move on successfully to other relationships with perfectly nice people. The people around them are equally shattered by experience.
Visiting Lithuanian director Rimas Tuminas emphasises that it‘s the human aspect of all this that most interests him. “There's a lot of love in the play. love in spades.‘ he states. ‘C‘hekhov said there were five poods of love in it. A pood is an old Russian weight measurement. I‘m not quite sure how much. btit it‘s heavy. Of course. love is a natural medium for the theatre..
This is quite different in its approach from a
The Seagull is full of
people with a capital ‘P’
Bird trouble: The Seagull
more society-based analysis of the play. which will frequently and validly seek to demonstrate that the social class and political background of the characters are factors in their dilemmas. ‘Personally. I can't see it from a sociological point of view.‘ Tuminas says. ‘The play is full of people with a capital ‘P'. I don‘t mean to say that you can't interpret the play in that sociological way. I stress that I don't want to criticise that approach. But it‘s the different kinds of people I’m interested in. There‘s usually no hero in (‘hekhov‘s drama. just people. If there‘s a hero in The Seagull. it‘s time: time passing.‘
But we see a lot of Chekhov in our time. so how does one revisit so widely performed a text'.’ Tuminas feels that so many productions fall into mannerism. or self-consciously radical departure that there is still room for new productions. ‘There seem to be two common ways of producing Chekhov.‘ he says. ‘()ne is beautiful people against a beautiful backdrop. Then there are the other kind. I once saw a Swedish production of Three Sisters where the sisters were portrayed as whores. and the men they were involved with were clients.’ Tuminas offers no comment on these interpretations. but you can tell what he‘s thinking.
So think about your relationships. Was there really any vindictiveness in the way people departed? I don't really think so in my case. lixcept once . . .
The Seagull, Dundee Rep, Wed 10-Sat 27 Oct.
Whispers Talk of the green room
WITH THE SCOTTISH ARTS Council announcing its fixed- term funding plans for theatre companies. you'd expect to see the usual expressions of elation and disgust from arOund the theatre community. but so far. response has been pretty restrained. Perhaps this is because we're all still trying to work out the reasoning behind the varying degree of time and money involved in the new diVision of the spoils.
For the record. among those receiving new money are Mull Theatre (32150000 per annum for up to three years). Borderline ($150,000. two years). 7:84 (2215.000. two years). Stellar Ouines (521 15.000. two years). Suspect Culture (531 15,000. two years). TAG ($215000. two years). Wee Stories (5370.000. for up to two years). Those who have missed out on funding include Boilerhouse, Theatre Babel and the Brunton Theatre. Now. there's no point getting into the usual seasonal slanging match about the companies who were given funding. Each has produced good w0rk over the past few years. and no dOLibt warrants the cash. But the calculations made in creating the different two and three—year awards are. at this stage. difficult to assess.
The real problem is not who was funded. but who missed Out. The solution? Well. let's not attack the SAC. which is itself short of funding. But what abOLit all this Scottish EXGCUllVG commitment to increase the duality of local theatre alongside the new national theatre? We've seen little result in terms of hard cash. even given the carefully calculated marginal inCrease in funding. Where's the beef?
V” w “w
Boilerhouse: Unlucky to miss out
4.18 ()(‘i 2001 THE LIST 63