Almost a year ago to the week, the female-led This Is Not A Test theatre company performed Three Sisters at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama – a postmodern meta-critique of one of Chekhov's most famous plays. This year, Chekhov has also been a source of inspiration, but this time drawing from another of his canon, The Seagull. Directed by Rebecca Reeves and performed by Maria Creasey (with support by Benjamin Victor as Medvedenko), The Seagull, Or Why Masha Always Wears Black is just as inventive as its predecessor, but in some ways more intimate.
The Seagull is known for its diverse ensemble of characters – in particular, the actress Irina Arkadina, her son the playwright Konstantin Tréplev, the ingenue Nina and the writer Boris Trigorin. All of these characters are referenced in the show, but they are seen through the eyes of Masha who gives the show its flavour.
From the word go we are reminded of the 'artificiality' of the show's reality and that Creasey isn't really Masha. This however isn't a source of negativity. On the contrary, much fun is had with breaking 'the fourth wall' and Creasey constantly interacting with the audience, proving that one doesn't need to be au fait with The Seagull to enjoy Why Masha Always Wears Black.
For more than an hour Creasey blends the idiosyncrasies of the text with insights about Masha versus female identity in general and performance. But it never feels 'dry' or didactic. If anything it feels organic and spontaneous.
As a side note, Creasey was eight months pregnant at the time of the show. Not that it factors into her performance in any way, but it was refreshing to woman on stage who was genuinely pregnant and had an such important role. It does in retrospect make one wonder about the 'invisibility' of pregnant women in the arts, especially on stage.
© Michael Davis 2016
The Seagull – Or Why Masha Always Wears Black ran at Camden People's Theatre on 21st September 2016.