A California Seagull

Edinburgh Festival review
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Red Chair Players
Christine Mangone (director), Alison Carey (playwright)
Annaliese Kirby (Irene), Jamie Biondi (Taper), Emma Feiwel (Nina)
Running time

You have to spare a thought for poor old Chekhov. There he is, a writer who created a whole genre that inspired artistic descendents of the calibre of George Bernard Shaw and Woody Allen, and then the second he goes out of copyright whole armies of also-rans take it upon themselves to adapt, transpose and generally muck about with his plays in any way they see fit.

A California Seagull is – let’s be clear – a well-established and multi-award-winning play by the respected American playwright Alison Carey. In addition, the Red Chair Players won a Fringe First in 2004 for their production Bang, Bang, You’re Dead. So with pedigrees such as these to call on, you’d expect to see something pretty damn good going on down at Chambers Street this week, right?
Well, no.

In many ways, the C+3 venue is at the heart of this show’s problems. If you’ve never been in it, I can assure you it’s an unforgiving space: a sprawling floor-level stage flanked by seating on three sides, the longest of which sits beneath a row of unblacked-out skylights, and the whole thing immersed in some vague but deafening electrical hum.

The young actors from Greenwich Academy therefore have a tough job connecting the audience emotionally to the disjointed comings and goings of characters who are rather too straightforwardly transposed from the original text: for "playwright" read "screenwriter;" for "actress" read "movie star." Of course, a switched-on audience can do all that already whilst watching a conventional staging of the play, so this exercise adds little to our understanding of its themes.

In its favour, it’s all done with high energy and there is at least one fine performance by Annaliese Kirby as Irene. But, overall, the venue’s drawbacks are fatal. A woman in front of me was sitting openly reading the Metro during Act II. Bad manners, no doubt, but I could see her point.

Times: Jul 30 - Aug 9