Benedict Andrews' The Seagull: a meditation on the "Great Australian Emptiness" or a cul-de-sac of the 'real'?
Benedict Andrews' 2011 production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull transposes the provincial isolation of the Russian dramatist's late nineteenth century county estate to coastal Australia. In doing so, the Australian director, influenced by Patrick White's literary assault on the dominant traditions of mid-twentieth century Australia, critiques the aesthetic 'realities' of the local theatre landscape. Chekhov's character Treplev's quest for "new forms" culminates in the realisation of the pragmatic compromises key to building and sustaining a career in an artistic profession. In Andrews' production two large scale signs consisting of fluorescent bulbs forming the words 'REAL LIFE' constitute a graphic, ironic comment on not simply the illusion of life on stage, but the problem of artistic fulfilment in contemporary Australia. Against an iconic image of isolation, the quintessential Australian holiday shack, Andrews' neon reminder of the limits of the theatrical medium raises the question of the internationalist aspirations of a new generation of artists in Australia.
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