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by Anton Chekhov

Translated by Ann Jellicoe and
Ariadne Nicolaeff

The Questors Playhouse
March 1972

Directed by Ann Jellicoe
Designed by Sheila Sorley
Lighting by Frank Wood
Sound by John Stothart
Costumes by Maud Culhane

Programme Press Cuttings  
programme.PDF 1972_seagull cuttings.pdf  


David Crewes, Lorna Duval, Alfred Emmet, David Gower, Suzanne Gregerson, Barbara Hutchins, Peter Kendrick, Donald Mackay, Moreen Pritchard, Roger Sherman, Ffrangcon Whelan, John Whibley

Production Team:
Bronwyn Beckford, Ros Bentley, June Bowie, Douglas Brown, Hilda Collins, Maud Culhane, Roy Edwards, Gay Ellis, Brian Godfrey, Christina Harkness, Adrienne Harris, Leigh Hay Chapman, Ann Jellicoe, Roger Kelly, Peter Kendrick, Douglas McCarthy, Terry Morris, Susan Oldham, Iris Phelps, Moreen Pritchard, Tom Pritchard, Gareth Rees, Meriel Snowdon, Sheila Sorley, John Stothart, Jack Walsh, Frank Wood


Chekhov himself wrote a terse description of The Seagull: "Its a comedy . . . . 4 acts, country scene (view of a lake), little action, tons of love". The play is more commonly regarded as a tragedy but I suspect we may blame Stanislaysky for this. It was he who established Chekhov and made him famous, but in doing so he imposed his own style upon the play — a style which Chekhov himself disliked. What we now call the "Chekhovian" style: heavy, introverted, self-pitying, is more likely due to Stanislaysky who was a man who liked to over-egg the pudding.

By classical criteria The Seagull is indeed a comedy: it hovers on the brink of tragedy but never falls over; it has a positive ending: Nina's will to endure; and it regards its characters with a wry, objective sympathy. It is comedy in fact which gives the play its poignancy.

The phrase "little action" can only be accepted if you place The Seagull alongside its contemporaries. In the 1890's dramatic writing was only just struggling free of the Victorian theatre with its "real" shipwrecks, "real" battles and (really) live rabbits. Compared with such plays as The Bells or The Lady of the Camellias, the action of The Seagull explores a different dimension. Dates are significant: Freud was born in 1856, Chekhov in 1860. Such richness and depth of insight could not have come before the end of the nineteenth century.

As for Chekhov's artistic contemporaries we may remember Monet, and the Impressionist painters, and Debussy, who share an iridescent, shimmering style which suggests rather than states. The poet Mallarmé said: "To name an object is to sacrifice three quarters of that enjoyment of a poem which comes from guessing it bit by bit. To suggest that it is our dream". Chekhov would have agreed.

Ann Jellicoe