052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

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

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

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.
The Texts
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Douglas

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.

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052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull was a disaster on its opening night in St Petersburg in 1896. The unsettling blend of comedy and pathos that confused the first critics and audience were subsequently recognised as seminal in the evolution of modern drama.

I’m delighted to welcome back playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, to talk about Chekhov and his timeless play.

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

Patrick Marber’s play Closer depicts a merry-go-round of metropolitan relationships powered by sex and betrayal. Its clever and candid dissection of the destructive power of sexual desire hit a contemporary nerve when it premiered in 1997.
Clare Lizzimore, director of a new production at the Lyric Hammersmith, joins me to explore how the play’s unflinching sexual politics has aged twenty-five years later.

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

Jez Butterworth’s play Jersualem is one of the landmark plays of the 21st century, acclaimed for both its lyrical and elusive text exploring English identity, and for its electrifying theatrical production. The once-in-a lifetime performance is happily being repeated with the current West End revival, and it seems fitting that our 50th episode be devoted to this remarkable play. I’m joined by David Ian Rabey, Emeritus Professor at Aberystwyth University and author of The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth.

Dan Rebellato

Dan Rebellato

Dan Rebellato

Dan Rebellato is a playwright, journalist and Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has written no fewer than 17 stage plays and numerous radio plays, as well as published several books on contemporary British theatre.

He is the editor of the series of Terence Rattigan’s plays for specialist drama publisher Nick Hern, in which capacity he has written introductions to Rattigan and all of his texts, as well as published and spoken about his work in many other contexts.

In February 2020 Dan devised and hosted a day-long symposium entitled Re-Imagining Nora, to coincide with a new production of A Doll’s House at the Young Vic theatre in London.

During the first coronavirus lockdown Dan created a series of YouTube interviews with a stellar line-up of playwrights under the heading Playwrights in Lockdown. The series is a wonderful repository of knowledge and insight into the methods and work of many of the leading writers of our time.

Visit Dan’s website here

Recommended Play(s)

In episode 1 Dan recommended any play by Caryl Churchill, especially Far Away.
In episode 8 Dan recommended The Winslow Boy by Terence Rattigan.

 

 

 

008 – The Deep Blue Sea, by Terence Rattigan

008 – The Deep Blue Sea, by Terence Rattigan

008 – The Deep Blue Sea, by Terence Rattigan

“When you’re between any kind of devil and the deep blue sea, the deep blue sea sometimes looks very inviting.”

So Hester Collyer describes the despair that led her to attempt suicide at the opening of Terence Rattigan’s masterpiece The Deep Blue Sea.

When it was first performed in 1952, Rattigan was the most successful playwright in Britain, and his latest play was met with critical aclaim. However later in the 1950s and 1960s with the rise of playwrights such as Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, and the angry young men, including John Osborne, and Arnold Wesker, Rattigan’s plays were all but written off as dated melodrama. It was a modern production of The Deep Blue Sea at the Almeida theatre in London in 1993, with Penelope Wilton in the lead role, that brought a new lens through which to view Rattigan, and the play was greeted as a “modern classic”.

Rattigan’s portrait of a doomed love affair explores the force of sexual love and its power to destroy relationships and subvert social convention, and in the figure of Hester Collyer gives us one of the most emotionally charged female characters in drama.

To coincide with the National Theatre at Home broadcast of their 2016 production of the play starring Helen McCrory in the lead role, we delve deep into what is arguably Rattigan’s most personal and most devastatingly powerful play in conversation with Dan Rebellato.

Dan Rebellato

Dan was our very first guest on The Play Podcast, when we talked together about Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House back in episode 1.
In addition to being a playwright, journalist and Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London, Dan is also the series editor of Terence Rattigan’s plays for the specialist drama publisher Nick Hern, in which capacity he has written introductions to Rattigan and all of his texts, as well as published and spoken about his work in many other contexts.

At last count Dan has written 17 stage plays, numerous radio plays, and published several books on contemporary British theatre. During the recent coronavirus lockdown Dan has taken the opportunity to create a series of YouTube interviews with a stellar line-up of playwrights under the heading Playwrights in Lockdown. The series is a wonderful repository of knowledge and insight into the methods and work of many of the leading writers of our time.

Recommended Play

Dan recommended The Winslow Boy by Terence Rattigan.

 

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 by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. You will also be supporting an independent bookseller. Thank you.

Photo © Marc Brenner

We have footnotes for this episode …

More observations on The Deep Blue Sea following our conversation with Dan, including playing Hester with “no clothes on”, trading Shakespearean quotes on Love and Lust, the unimportance of “the physical side, objectively speaking”, and the whereabouts of a shilling coin.

You might also be interested in …

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull was a disaster on its opening night in St Petersburg in 1896. The unsettling blend of comedy and pathos that confused the first critics and audience were subsequently recognised as seminal in the evolution of modern drama.

I’m delighted to welcome back playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, to talk about Chekhov and his timeless play.

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

Patrick Marber’s play Closer depicts a merry-go-round of metropolitan relationships powered by sex and betrayal. Its clever and candid dissection of the destructive power of sexual desire hit a contemporary nerve when it premiered in 1997.
Clare Lizzimore, director of a new production at the Lyric Hammersmith, joins me to explore how the play’s unflinching sexual politics has aged twenty-five years later.

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

Jez Butterworth’s play Jersualem is one of the landmark plays of the 21st century, acclaimed for both its lyrical and elusive text exploring English identity, and for its electrifying theatrical production. The once-in-a lifetime performance is happily being repeated with the current West End revival, and it seems fitting that our 50th episode be devoted to this remarkable play. I’m joined by David Ian Rabey, Emeritus Professor at Aberystwyth University and author of The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth.

001 – A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen

001 – A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen

Show notes

Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House remains one the most popularly produced and adapted plays in theatrical history. What is it about a play that was written more than 140 years ago that continues to inspire and challenge contemporary playwrights and audiences? The character of Nora is an iconic figure: her decision to leave her husband and three children remains a controversial act of female agency. To explore the enduring relevance of this classic play, we are joined by Dan Rebellato, playwright and Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. The episode coincides with a radical new adaptation of the play by Stef Smith that played at the Young Vic theatre in London.

Dan Rebellato

Dan Rebellato is a playwright, journalist and Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has written 17 stage plays and numerous radio plays, published several books on contemporary British theatre, as well as edited the Nick Hern series of Terence Rattigan’s plays.

In February 2020 Dan devised and hosted a day-long symposium entitled Re-Imagining Nora, to coincide with a new production of A Doll’s House at the Young Vic theatre in London. As the title suggests, the symposium examined the enduring interest in our reviving and adapting Ibsen’s great play.

Visit Dan’s website here

Recommended Play

Dan recommended any Caryl Churchill play, especially Far Away.

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 by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. You will also be supporting an independent bookseller. Thank you.

Photo © Marc Brenner

We have footnotes for this episode …

These footnotes are a follow-up to our live discussion in episode one of the podcast, including a selection of points from my researches that we didn’t happen to include, as well as follow-up on any facts and questions that came up during our conversation with Dan.

You might also be interested in …

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

052 – The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull was a disaster on its opening night in St Petersburg in 1896. The unsettling blend of comedy and pathos that confused the first critics and audience were subsequently recognised as seminal in the evolution of modern drama.

I’m delighted to welcome back playwright and professor, Dan Rebellato, to talk about Chekhov and his timeless play.

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

051 – Closer, by Patrick Marber

Patrick Marber’s play Closer depicts a merry-go-round of metropolitan relationships powered by sex and betrayal. Its clever and candid dissection of the destructive power of sexual desire hit a contemporary nerve when it premiered in 1997.
Clare Lizzimore, director of a new production at the Lyric Hammersmith, joins me to explore how the play’s unflinching sexual politics has aged twenty-five years later.

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

050 – Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth

Jez Butterworth’s play Jersualem is one of the landmark plays of the 21st century, acclaimed for both its lyrical and elusive text exploring English identity, and for its electrifying theatrical production. The once-in-a lifetime performance is happily being repeated with the current West End revival, and it seems fitting that our 50th episode be devoted to this remarkable play. I’m joined by David Ian Rabey, Emeritus Professor at Aberystwyth University and author of The Theatre and Films of Jez Butterworth.