Exploring the greatest new and classic plays


The Seagull
The Russian Arts Theatre
The Center at West Park
New York, 2019

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

Sep 26, 2022 | Podcast Episodes | 0 comments

The Seagull is the first of the four dramatic masterpieces that Anton Chekhov wrote in the last ten years of his short life. It was nearly the end of his playwriting career, however, because the first night of its premier production in St Petersburg in 1896 was a disaster. The audience laughed unsympathetically throughout, and the boos that greeted the final curtain drove its author to flee the theatre and to spend the night in a park hiding from the critics.

Fortunately when the play was remounted two years later by Konsantin Stanislavski and his Moscow Arts Theatre it became a popular triumph. In fact this production and the play heralded an important development in the history of the theatre, with Chekhov writing a more naturalistic form of drama and Stanislavski establishing new methods of performance that were seminal in the evolution of modern drama in the 20th century. The finely poised balance between comedy and tragedy in The Seagull, where we simultaneously laugh at and pity characters who struggle to achieve the lives they dreamed of, became emblematic of Chekhov’s drama. It’s a balance that confused its first critics, but signalled a modern sensibility that we recognise in the existential drama of Beckett and Pinter.

I have long loved The Seagull and am delighted to welcome playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, back to the podcast to review Chekhov’s classic, yet timeless, play.

Dan Rebellato
Dan Rebellato is a playwright, journalist and Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has written 19 stage plays and numerous radio plays, published several books on contemporary British theatre, as well as edited the Nick Hern series of all of Terence Rattigan’s plays. Most recently he co-authored the drama serial Exemplar for BBC Radio 4. Dan was my very first guest on The Play Podcast, agreeing to talk to me at length about A Doll’s House back in March 2020. He was also gracious enough to return for more in episode 8 when we shared our love for Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea.
Recommended Play
Dan recommended Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner by Jasmine Lee-Jones.
Photo © Marc Brenner
We have footnotes for this episode …

The Footnotes to our episode on The Seagull by Anton Chekhov include how the Moscow Arts Theatre adopted the seagull as their emblem, Chekhov’s active love life, the principle of Chekhov’s Gun, who is Masha’s father, and the comedy and tragedy of Konstantin.

Become a Patron!

Since I launched The Play Podcast in April 2020, I have managed to eschew any form of advertising or sponsorship, and I would like to continue to produce the podcast without doing so. I therefore invite you to support the podcast by becoming a Patron.

Additional benefits available to Patrons include Footnotes on the plays covered in the podcast, and exclusive access to The Play Review.

For details click here

Thank you very much for listening and for your support.

The Texts
If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them from our selected partners Bookshop.org and Blackwell’s. Not only will you be supporting independent booksellers, we will also earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. Click on the cover to buy from our chosen partner. Thank you.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You might also be interested in …
067 – Red Pitch by Tyrell Williams

067 – Red Pitch by Tyrell Williams

Tyrell William’s award-winning, debut play Red Pitch is set on an inner-city football pitch in South London. It is a coming-of-age story, with teenage boys fighting to believe in their dreams, and to find a way up, and perhaps out, of their changing community. The play premiered at the Bush Theatre in London in February 2002, winning several awards, and is currently enjoying a sell-out revival at the Bush.

Tyrell Williams, and the show’s director, Daniel Bailey, join me to explore this joyful and poignant new play.

Photo by Helen Murray.

066 – The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh

066 – The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh

Martin McDonagh’s 2004 play The Pillowman is an unsettling mix of gruesome fairy tales, child abuse, and murder, overlaid with McDonagh’s signature black humour. McDonagh’s blend of extreme violence and ironic comedy divides opinion, although the popularity of the current revival of the play in London’s West End is testimony to its enduring fascination.

I am joined in this episode by Professor Eamonn Jordan, to help us come to terms with the impact and intent of McDonagh’s work.

065 – Accidental Death of an Anarchist, by Dario Fo and Franca Rame

065 – Accidental Death of an Anarchist, by Dario Fo and Franca Rame

Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo and Franca Rame is both an hilarious farce and a biting satire. Written in 1970 as an “act of intervention” in response to the unexplained death of a prisoner in police custody in Milan, it became a huge global hit.

An acclaimed new adaptation that updates the setting and scandal to modern-day Britain is currently playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, and I’m delighted to be joined by its writer, Tom Basden, and the director, Daniel Raggett, to talk about their adaptation and the enduring relevance of Fo’s original.