But Stephens' The Seagull is far from old-fashioned. In this notably modern exploration, directed by the Lyric's Sean Holmes, Stephens plays with the reality-theatricality binary, drawing the audience into a multi-layered world of façade where writers and actors and illusion and disillusion reign supreme.
The play opens at Peter Sorin’s estate where Konstantin is preparing to stage his first play. Chekhov’s young turn-of the-century Russian house-party guests are, in Stephens’ adaptation, binge-drinking, cleavage-flouting millenials.
Masha becomes Marcia in the tiniest bottom-skimming shorts imaginable, and naïve teenage actress Nina – cast as the leading role in Konstantin’s play – flounces around in a nipple-grazing silver metallic halter neck bodysuit. Nobody in this delocalised setting has access to modern technology – phones or the internet don't seem to exist – yet horses, rather bewilderingly, are still the means of transport. It’s quite an entertaining start.
But as the summer drags on so does the narrative. The joviality, chatter aplenty and raucous laughter become heated debates, spiteful slagging matches and self-indulgent monologues. While Peter’s guests appear to be having a great time, nothing is ever as it seems.
Lesley Sharps’ formidable Irina steals the show. Capturing the faded actress's desperate desire for a long-gone fame with remarkable conviction, she springs about the stage in vermillion kitten heels, pouts endlessly and frequently bursts into explosive tears. Her accent lilts as she speaks - a subtle reminder of Irina’s constructed performative identity.
Nicholas Gleaves’ smarmy Boris is so smooth-talking, even the most prudish might fall from grace, and Konstantin’s mood-swings and deathly glares capture the millennial vice for bolshie self-righteousness down to a tee.
But masked behind the word-play, the highly artificial stage-set, the fabricated identities and art-house scene changes, is a long and at-times desperately ponderous narrative of unrequited love, human disillusion, falsity and envy, that leaves you clock watching two hours in.
While Stephens’ rebooted version of The Seagull is entertaining – thankfully the refreshed plot is simple to follow and the booze-swigging characters likeable enough – it fails to ever elegantly take flight.
|What||The Seagull review, Lyric Hammersmith|
|Where||Lyric Hammersmith, Lyric Square, King St, W6 0QL | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Hammersmith (All lines) (underground)|
03 Oct 17 – 04 Nov 17, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£15 - £40|
|Website||Click here for more information|