I drifted a bit into burlesque, didn’t I? Course correction: today a great classical play.
I must point out that I am not to be counted on for modern theatre productions – I have seen nothing, but nothing at all, not the shadow of the tail of a possible clue – nothing good in contemporary theatre. I’ve seen appalling plays, long, boring to death 300 times, pretentious, lecturing you like others piss beer, grey, dark, silly, atrocious. I am totally inoculated against this kind of work. I hear some people like it. I don’t like it at all. I declare myself incompetent – and still – I’m doing the nice thing – if I were dictator, all this in its place, in the toilet. And even in the toilet, there are better things to do.
I am convinced that the great authors of our time work, like composers, for the cinema or games.
Here goes – if you ever come across a contemporary piece here, it’s either not me writing it or it’s a miracle.
So, Chekhov’s The Seagull.
It is, as far as I am concerned, at the limit of my ‘modern’ capacity. I have seen it three times. Of the three times, I fell asleep twice. It really depends on the director.
I am not telling you anything new by saying that it is a Russian play, from the great Russian literary age. But it’s important, because each country has its own culture and its own way of expressing itself, of considering human relationships – which gave two major misdirections that I saw and thus two emergency exits into the deepest sleep.
If I had to summarize the story quickly, it would be this: it is the story of failed people. They have all failed at everything: their lives, their loves, their jobs, their children – everything.
They have money: they think they have succeeded in something.
Big deal, they’re stupid enough to eat pounds of hay.
None of the characters are sympathetic. No character is endearing. No character will touch you and make you cry big tears of empathy.
That, for French directors, seems to be unbearable. They need victims. There are seriously no victims in this play – unless you assume you are a victim of your own idiocy, but then… I’ll pass.
As a result, if you read this play in the Russian style, you are faced with a rather ferocious comedy of manners that can be very, very enjoyable to watch.
If you read this play in French victim mode, you are faced with a horrible tragedy where the poor son of the great actress is not respected by his mother, where the mother’s lover, a playwright, throws himself at the poor sensitive young girl with a unicorn- if you please, who dreams of being an actress and then fails to achieve it – a young & pure girl who does not hesitate to get into bed with the guy, because she thinks he will make her known and too bad for her lover of the beginning: the poor son of the great nanana.
As for him, the failed author son, so he was in love with the young girl, he gets dumped for the older one who is a recognized author.
Good. He kills a seagull.
That’s the title.
The seagull that was free and died.
You can interpret this shot as the murder of innocence – if you like.
Two years go by – the result of all this: the girl had a baby with the old man – he died. The baby, not the old man – oh, have you read Tess of the D’Urbervilles and her son Sorrow? pardon, pardon ! – She didn’t become a great actress and the author left her to go back to his girlfriend from the beginning – the great actress herself,bad mother and this and that.
Poor not-so-young not-so-pure girl returns to the failed author-son.
He wants to go back with her in life, for life, lalala. She doesn’t know anymore, she doesn’t want to. He goes out. Shotgun blast. After the seagull, it is him.
In 150 years I will still ask myself how this young girl could have been seen as a poor, innocent, pure girl? I lack modernity on the victim side of girls, I feel.
As for the author killing himself because of a low-flying crane, I admit I’m overwhelmed.
What I’ve read, what I’ve seen once, is pretentious morons holding the stage and we watch the results of that pretentious moronism.
Portrayed in this spirit, it is a humor of rare nastiness, it is true, but it is very funny.
There is no great moral – is stupidity curable? – but it can, like the great ancient Greek plays, prevent us from taking ourselves too seriously, from believing in our own stupidities and hurting everyone else by pretending to have something to live for and prove in life.
So : it could be an excellent play – but, it could be a serious plague. Then : it will be necessary to pay attention to the director.
Didn’t I keep drifting a little? hmmm, yes, a little – well, that’s okay
Featured Image : the Seagull – directed by Thomas Ostermeier.