A new online version
Chekhov's The Seagull
By Eli Kent and Eleanor Bishop, directed by Eleanor Bishop
8 MAY - 29 MAY 2020 — Theatre
Auckland Theatre Company
Facebook & YouTube
4 episodes, 30 minutes per episode
Chekhov’s The Seagull, a new online version by Eli Kent and Eleanor Bishop, directed by Eleanor Bishop brings a landmark piece of theatre to the 21st century.
Delivered in 30 minute instalments over four weeks in May 2020, this production was rehearsed, performed and broadcast all in the online space. The actors had just one week per episode to read the script, learn their lines and rehearse, ready to broadcast on Friday of that week.
Chekhov's famous characters are reimagined with a Kiwi twist and congregate over Zoom. In a direct commentary of our world in lockdown, the characters are still searching for meaning in their lives while battling love, jealousy, dissatisfaction, dreams, hopes and plans - not to mention malfunctioning video calls! This drama all plays out in self-isolation and over virtual interactions with each other.
This retelling of Chekhov’s classic The Seagull is created by a brilliant artistic team and stellar cast, all from their own bubbles.
Watch all episodes for FREE on YouTube
How do I watch it?
Through the ATC Youtube channel. You don’t need a Youtube account to watch.
What does it cost to watch?
Nothing! All episodes of Chekhov’s The Seagull are free to watch and do not require a ticket or special link.
However if you’re able, we hope you’ll consider making a donation at the conclusion of the episode via our website. During this challenging and unpredictable time, your commitment to and support of ATC is especially meaningful.
What is the best way to watch?
We highly recommend watching on a larger device like a TV screen or computer, rather than on a mobile phone, for a premium viewing experience. You could also use headphones if viewing alone for the best sound quality.
About the Co-Adapters @styleClass>
Director and co-adapter Eleanor Bishop says, “What are most people in New Zealand doing right now? Having conversations and drinking wine online. The only difference from a Chekhov play to now is that the action isn’t taking place at a Russian country estate but on Zoom: Families are gathering. The young are thinking about their dreams and whether they are possible and older people are reflecting on their lives and their disappointments.
“We want to preserve this classic work but present it in a new way, to see how Chekhov’s mastery of subtext plays out in the intimacy of a close-up camera, and to draw out the romantic and artistic conflicts in a digital setting,” she says.
The Seagull – one of theatre’s great masterpieces - is a “comedy of frustrated lives” in four acts. Chekhov himself once described it as, “A comedy, three women’s parts, six men’s, four acts, a landscape (view of a lake), a great deal of conversation about literature, little action, five tons of love.”
Eleanor Bishop, who has been referred to as “one of New Zealand’s most daring, intelligent, and political directors”, works across theatre and opera. Her work weaves classical material with documentary forms such as found text and filmed interviews, and it often features video and projection. Currently working between New Zealand and the United States, Bishop’s recent work includes Mrs Warren’s Profession (ATC), Body Double (Silo Theatre/Auckland Arts Festival) and Yes, Yes, Yes, a play about consent, co-written with Karin McCracken, which toured New Zealand and won Excellence in Production at the Auckland Theatre Awards in 2019.
Co-adapter Eli Kent is a writer, director, and performer. He’s a recipient of multiple accolades, including the Bruce Mason Award for emerging playwrights and the New Zealand Arts Foundation New Generation Award. He wrote and acted in The Playground Collective’s All Your Wants and Needs Fulfilled Forever, which played at London’s Vault Festival following successful runs in Auckland and New York. His most recent work with ATC was Peer Gynt [recycled] and The Cherry Orchard.
Co-adapters Eleanor and Eli
Why The Seagull? @styleClass>
Why make a new version of The Seagull online? Our Artistic Director Colin McColl explains...
"Misplaced love is at the heart of Anton Chekhov’s gentle and elusive comedy THE SEAGULL. Chekhov‘s professional life as a doctor made him a wry, quiet, yet scrupulous observer of humanity – in all its little triumphs, its foibles and failings. His first works for the stage were one act farcical character studies – but with The Seagull he was attempting something more nuanced and textured. In this play, set at a time of great social upheaval, everyone it seems is in love with the wrong person – and the way it is played out hovers in a territory between comedy and tragedy that is unique to Chekhov. In fact the style was so new – that actors and audiences couldn’t relate to it – and the premiere in 1896 failed miserably. However, the theatre going public soon caught up with Chekhov and the play has resonated with audiences around the world since then. Luckily, audiences here (and around the world) have very quickly learned to incorporate Zoom into their lives – so this clever and funny reworking of the play for the digital age will make perfect sense to you. All power to Eli Kent and Eleanor Bishop for coming up with the idea, to our stellar cast and the ATC team who are behind making the project happen."
This version of The Seagull sets a new standard for large cast performance in Lockdown. Enjoy the as-ever compelling drama while embracing the differences in its delivery... Tune in next week for the next bound-to-be equally absorbing episode.
The dialogue captures the play's essence while making it feel incredibly pertinent and local, aided by small details highlighting the eccentricities of lockdown life.
The production finds similar solutions to the play’s numerous challenges. Some of these ideas add new layers to the characters... More top-quality Chekhov like this is needed.
The inherent awkwardness of communication over zoom – with its delays and pauses – sentences delivered simultaneously to everyone connected and to no one at all – makes Chekhov’s own portrayal of failed communication more palpable than ever.
I applaud the attention to detail in every dimension of this brilliant production.
Superb combination of text, subtext and visual language.
Director Eleanor Bishop, with co-writer Eli Kent and their team of creative artists and actors, have collaborated to make a great virtue of all the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. This online version of Chekhov's The Seagull is a living testament to the resourcefulness and resilience of creative artists.