The Seagull by Anton Chekhov
The aim of this scheme of work is to provide students with a general introduction to Chekhov’s The Seagull, and to focus on the naturalistic acting style of the play and the structure of exam essays. It will give advice on how to prepare students for the DRAM3 Section A set text questions.
While it is clear that the play’s themes and concepts can be highlighted through non-naturalistic approaches to technical and design aspects, the characters and relationships portrayed need to be performed and directed using naturalism.
Successful answers for the written exam do not need references to Stanislavski and his system; it is a performance question, not an examination of rehearsal. But it is vital that students understand the concept of subtext, and how subtle, sensitive approaches to characterisation can help the audience to understand what is going on ‘behind the words’. Pause, gaze, silence, eye and physical contact (or lack of it) become key techniques in revealing not only what the characters feel, but what they are trying to hide or repress.
Emotion memory or MOPA, despite being potentially interesting techniques to discuss in the classroom, are not part of a written response. A consideration of set and costume that reflects, accurately, late nineteenth-century Russia, as well as the two year time period that elapses during the course of the play, is a challenge. Those two years are extremely important, especially to Konstantin and Nina’s appearance and demeanour. It is also important to make students aware that The Seagull is a comedy, but clearly it is closer to the work of Mike Leigh and The Office than to The Young Ones. It has a dark humour based in awkwardness, casual cruelty and self-delusion.
Number of lessons: 2