Photo: Luke Adamson and Nina Bright during the play’s dress rehearsal.
My friend Luke Adamson founded Black Coffee Theatre with actress & artistic director Maria Crocker and writer/director Jonathan Holby. Their version of The Seagull was adapted by Luke and was Jonathan’s directorial debut.
Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov wrote The Seagull in 1895 and saw it on stage the very next year. Our guys have set their adaptation in 1920s England. With my make up artist Jasmine Cargill in tow, I eagerly waited to be entertained. It was the opening night of play at New Wimbledon Theatre.
The plot revolves around four main characters; the emerging actress Nina (Nina Bright), aspiring playwright Konstantine (Luke Adamson), his mother Irina (a fading actress herself, played by Julia Faulkner) and celebrated writer Trigorin (Simon Victor). The story opens with a play (staged by Konstantine), in a little village by the lake. Irina hates her son’s play and makes fun of it. Some of the others join in, and everything sort-of kicks off from there!
Luke Adamson fits the role of Konstantine perfectly. Though talented and ambitious, he lacks the support of his once-famous mum. He struggles to get his big break, which many young people in the creative industries could relate to.
Nina Bright is perfect as Konstanine’s love interest. Her character has two shades; bright, bubbly and dreamy in the first half of the play and depressed, damaged and lost towards the end. With perfect timing and impeccable dialogue delivery, she uses her expressive face (a gift from God!) to covey a flurry of emotions. Certainly one to watch! At the after party I told her to play her cards right and be a bit ruthless while climbing her way up the showbiz ladder. I am not sure if that was good advice, but it certainly seems to be working for some!
Julia Faulkner was entertaining and funny as Konstantine’s overbearing and melodramatic mother. Both mother and son share a love-hate relationship (well, mostly hate!) with each trying to outdo each other with insults and getting to breaking point, which is when they discover they both yearn for each other’s love.
Maria Crocker fits the role of Masha perfectly. Well dressed and stylish, she is a high society girl who ends up with Simon (Felix O’Brien), a man who loves her (she doesn’t reciprocate!). Simon is a teacher and constantly worries about having to support his mother, sisters and future wife. Simple and straight forward, Felix plays him well, with perfect comic timing. Masha triggers off laughter among the audience with her constant need for cocaine. She is in love with Konstantine, who isn’t interested in her in the slightest bit, which only heightens her sadness. So more cocaine comes in handy!
Gregory Cox plays Dr. Eugene Dorn, a friend of almost every character in the play and has a reputation as once-famous playboy. Now settled, he lends a caring ear to others and finds it difficult to deal with the advances of Masha’s mother Polina (Leonna McGilligan) who holds her own in a few scenes by standing out in a story full of powerful characters. Polina has her own personality and it is understood that she might have her own story to tell… although it never gets told. She also (unsuccessfully) urges Konstantine to reciprocate her daughters advances towards him.
Simon Victor cuts a dashing figure as famous writer Trigorin. While having an affair with Irina, he flirts with Nina and snorts cocaine with Masha! An affair with Nina (with devastating consequences) follows. Smart and well dressed, Trigorin sports a well groomed beard and Simon plays the modest yet slightly swollen-headed writer, who seems to revel in the fact that women want him.
Peter Nolan makes us all laugh with his fantastic portrayal of Peter Sorin. In real life, Peter (Nolan) has 15 grandchildren! So affection and care should come to him naturally! This comes in handy in his scenes with Konstantine and Nina. Peter Sorin is an elderly character loved by everyone in the village. He is funny and on a few occasions, Jasmine and I laughed out loud, attracting some disapproving glances from a few other theatre goes who didn’t seem to have any sense of humour whatsoever!
There’s a bit of swearing between Irina and son Konstantine, and a mild saucy scene between Irina and Trigorin. That’s about it. I was disappointed! I was expecting scenes of a sexual nature and some crass foul mouthed swearing (what can I say, my taste in theatre is rather sophisticated and cultured!).
But Luke said that as the play was set in the 1920s, this wouldn’t look right. I told him he should do another adaptation of The Seagull in the near future and set in current times. Can you imagine? A lot of swearing, nudity and sex on the lines of Geordie Shore? Surely there must a market for such plays? But I wonder which theatre would open their doors to it.
Coming back to the play, the theatre was fully packed and there was a long queue. Thankfully Jasmine and I got in early and took our seats, wine in hand. (New Wimbledon Theatre) should start selling wine of good quality, by the way. The one on sale was crap and certainly didn’t go with the theatre atmosphere!)
It is hard to imagine that The Seagull was Jonathan Holby’s directorial debut. What a brilliant job he has done! One can tell how much hard work, rehearsals and whatnot had gone into this production. There were no errors. No stammers. Nothing I could even point a finger at and say “now that wasn’t quite right, was it?” The talented cast have surely made Jonathan’s job a bit easier. Each actor played their character so well, at times one could forget that one was watching a play. They all basically “lived” as the characters they played, during the 90-minute play. Congratulations to all of you, both cast and crew. I know you will be reading this!
Stage manager Bex Keable Crouch had obviously made sure that everything ran smoothly. The girl seated at the back with that computerized control thingy definitely seemed efficient, prompt and professional, making sure all the lighting and effects for the play were all perfect.
After the play, Jasmine and I joined the cast for a drink at The Old Frizzle (what a name, eh?) pub opposite the theatre and did a bit of socialising and mingling, which we are both very god at.
Luke, Maria and Jonathan have put in a lot of hard work into creating and managing Black Coffee Theatre and I kindly ask all of you to show your support towards these young, creative and talented artistes, in whatever way you can.
Click Here for more photographs from the play, by Conor Harte.