Corrie meets Chekhov

Graeme Hawley
Graeme Hawley

‘Fizz’s ex John Stape – Graeme Hawley – is wonderful’

The Seagull

Library at the Lowry, Salford

The final performance by Manchester’s Library theatre company could not be a more apt choice.

This new version of Chekhov’s masterpiece, given thorough refreshment by Anya Reiss, is itself about an attempted changing of the cultural guard, an irony that may not have been lost on its director Chris Honer.

He stands down from the company at the same time that it is about to be absorbed, along with Manchester’s Cornerhouse cinema, into a new multi-media venue known as Home and opening next year.

For more than 60 years the Library has been a cornerstone of drama in the region, providing a first introduction to serious theatre for many generations – amongst them yours truly!

In its elegant performance, and with such adept casting, this Seagull is another of those to now embed in the memory.

Reiss blows a cool breeze through the script, while Honer’s understanding of the drama within the domestic gives it more of the feel of an Ayckbourn comedy than a Chekhov woe-fest.

Characters here worry about their mobile phone contracts as much as the meaning of life.

Graeme Hawley, as the writer Trigorin, makes a wonderful lament out of his doubts about his talent, and the play and its central characters tend to pivot about that point.

Ben Allan, as the conflicted young Konstantin, and Sophie Robinson, as Nina the unwitting object of his affections, give equally established performances.

But there really isn’t a single weakness amongst the 10-strong cast and the only stretch here is that Judith Croft’s thrust staging means some audience members, watching from the seagull perch of the top tier, challenge even this venue’s computer-generated sight lines.

Whether you’re a Library goer of long standing, or someone at risk of never having had the pleasure, this is a performance not to be missed.

It flies here until March 8.

David Upton