Anton Chekhov used his 1896 tragicomedy to ponder the future of theatre. So there’s something pleasingly apt about The Seagull being Library Theatre Company’s very last production before it relocates in 2015 to a new building in Manchester, when it will change its name to Home.
After all, as tortured soul Konstantin (played with damaged intensity by Ben Allen) pronounces in Act I, “theatre needs to be new, needs provocation, purpose”. Anya Reiss’ adaptation certainly aims for those heights: this is a drama of conflict between would-be playwright Konstantin, his actress mother Arkadina (made fabulously self-obsessed by Susie Trayling), famous writer Trigorin and the blushingly naive Nina, played out against a backdrop of iPods, laptops and discussions of mobile phone tariffs.
It’s often said that Trigorin is one of Chekhov’s great male characters and certainly Graeme Hawley gives him an impressively natural air of witty deprecation and yearning as he falls for Nina, although it’s not entirely clear, given how Sophie Robinson plays the role as an overly starstruck fan, why he would find her attractive.
This version of The Seagull is also Chris Honer’s final production as artistic director and while he also fully buys into Reiss’ adaptation, it does feel like a very John Lewis vision of self-obsessed middle-class Britain – and that’s not just in the remarkably bland clothes the supposedly attractive Trigorin wears. Partly, this might be Reiss’ point: in exploring such bohemian entitlement none of these characters come across as particularly likeable – or indeed appear to like themselves.
So when the bemused Dorn (Christopher Wright) remarks “you really are all so dramatic”, he has a point. While there’s much to enjoy here, sometimes the balance tips just the wrong way into niggling introspection.