"It's not about new forms, or old forms, the thing is to write. Just write." Such are Constance's words in Michael West's adaptation of The Seagull for The Corn Exchange, a play of unrequited love set in the grounds of a country estate.
The Seagull itself, from where the play draws its title, shifts meaning for both the audience and characters as the story progresses. One constant, the landscape which both enables and disables the characters to varying degrees, grips those in the play like the audience watching, who sit in a darkened auditorium as countless possibilities occur before us.
Directed by Annie Ryan, with an impressive cast featuring Derbhle Crotty, Genevieve Hulme Beaman and Rory Keenan, self-referencing is brought to the fore. As characters gather to watch a play, the audience experience a similar condition. We watch an actress onstage play an actress performing, hear the words the playwright wrote for a character - who's a writer - describing the process of writing.
The set design, a large watercolour painting of a forest, dominates the evening’s proceedings. A piece of art for a piece of art.
"The only thing is to endure," speaks Nina, realising the version she had of herself, the one occurring throughout the play, has changed - like the Seagull - into something different. Is Chekhov’s play, enduring countless productions over years no different? This adaptation knows the version it wants to be, but like the characters who strive for that difficult goal, does it achieve it?
Is art, much like love, only fully realised when there's an artist and an audience present? One lover for another - unrequited or not?
To see this play is finding out whether you're the lover, or the loved. And in the end, who doesn't want a bit of love?
Brian for DRAFF
The Seagull by Anton Chekhov, in a new version by Michael West and Annie Ryan (Corn Exchange), runs at the Gaiety Theatre as part of Dublin Theatre Festival until October 16th.Image: Ros Kavanagh