Six members of the cast of The Seagull give us the inside track on rehearsals, the play and the NYT experience.
I think The Seagull is a really powerful play. From start to finish, the play seethes with emotion. Sometimes it’s barely held in check, other times it broils violently to the surface for all to see.
The characters are desperately trying to make something of themselves, or pursuing an ideal lifestyle that can never be…an enthralling dream…wanting to be someone. There is an obsession radiating from all the characters for material possessions, a lover, or even just attention.
The Seagull is also a truthful play because the characters that get what they desire end up just as unhappy as those that don’t, making it very true to life.
When I first read the script I was struck by how difficult it would be for us to portray the high level of desperation that’s on every page and given off by every character.
But what’s so unique about this production, I think, is that there is an awareness of us, as young people, telling the story of The Seagull. We don’t want you, the viewer, to think of us as musty old characters, trapped in 19th Century Russia, but as young people. Young people, totally set on telling you a timeless tale of worry and woe.
This version of The Seagull, by Martin Crimp has made the play totally accessible, with a more modern text, and yet it hasn’t lost any depth and body. The more modern words in the play make it easier for us to understand our characters as well.
I’m really enjoying rehearsals for The Seagull. It’s beautifully written, with a heap of heartbreaking scenes and a myriad of witty quips! What makes it truly great, however, it that its themes all still ring true in 2009.
Ben Waddell, Dublin Youth Theatre
Being a member of the National Youth Theatre is incredibly rewarding. It gives young people an opportunity to work with well-known and celebrated professionals in the industry and get a first-hand experience of what professional acting entails.
One feels very privileged to be able to partake in this experience: to be able to perform on the National stage and to learn from and work with the best.
The rehearsals for the show are both challenging and rewarding. During the rehearsal process, you get an opportunity to be creative, have fun and try innovative ideas that may, or may not be incorporated into the show, but increase the sense of individual involvement in the production.
The rehearsals include a variety of different elements such as, improvisational work, movement, vocal training, breathing exercises etc, that maybe demanding, but improve your skills as a performer.
In my opinion, the main difference between my youth theatre and NYT is the amazing dedication that every cast member demonstrates. An aura of professionalism and dedication permeates this entire production. You realise that for every single person in the cast, acting is more than a hobby; it’s an inextricable part of their life and a possible career choice.
I have learned a great deal artistically, both from receiving direction from the director and watching my fellow actors perform. I began to look differently on characterisation and the level of acting that must be involved in order to give a character its emotional depth and complexity. It is challenging to truthfully and realistically portray a character over two decades my senior and one learns a great deal from these challenges.
This experience means a lot to me. From the day I saw the production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle in 2007, I wanted to become a member of NYT. This is a great opportunity for young people to meet, work together and learn from each other.
Being a member of NYT and taking part in this amazing experience solidified in my mind the desire to pursue acting as a career. It helped me to see the artistic and personal rewards in being an actor and allowed me to interact with and learn from my peers.
Zarima McDermott, Waterford Youth Arts
It’s such a unique experience to be involved in a professional show of this calibre…sort of mind boggling, really. To have the experience to work with a skilled production team- it’s incredible what you learn from just being around them.
The rehearsals are really tough. It’s a long day and you really try to give it your all because you know everyone else is. And you really want it to be a good show. But even though it’s tough, overall it’s a very rewarding experience.
It’s a different standard to your local youth theatre. Every cast member is a very capable actor and everybody is capable of giving really good performances. The four weeks of full-time rehearsals are geared to putting on an amazing show on the National stage. That’s a big step up.
You really learn a lot artistically, not just from Wayne and Dave, but just from talking to other cast members and watching each other and being involved, every day, in such an arts driven atmosphere.
Personally, I’ve really started to better understand how a play is put together- just the very small details that are needed in making a good play.
My most vivid memory is probably finding out that I had made the cast of NYT. I got a phone-call in school…I’d been waiting for a few days and I really couldn’t believe that I’d got through…just couldn’t believe it!
It’s a very singular experience for any young actor or any person with an interest in drama or acting. To have the chance to act in The Peacock is amazing…to be doing it with 15 other young people is even more wonderful…
Diarmuid Woods, Roscommon Co. Youth Theatre
I like The Seagull as a play; the characters’ notion that the grass is always greener on the other side is something I think we all can relate to.
Martin Crimp’s version has been great to work on- it gives the play a modern feel. The play could be placed anywhere- the primary Russian aspect left is the pace and character names. This makes it more accessible to both us, as the cast, and the audience.
The play definitely works for a young cast, however nothing comes without its challenges; it took some time to get used to the language and establish a thorough understanding of all the relationships within the play.
The National Youth Theatre’s production of The Seagull will be different from any other. The music we have chosen wouldn’t typically be used for this play, but neither would a group of under-twenty-year-olds!
There is a great energy about the production. Everyone is extremely committed and there’s a great sense that we are a group of young people who have some together to put our own twist on this classic play and present it to the public.
Emily O’Reilly, CSM Youth Theatre
I found the play so enjoyable and suitable for a cast as young as us. I think The Seagull is quite easy to relate to, as the story basically revolves around the concept of being refused the one thing you want the most, which is something that everyone can understand on some level or another- regardless of age, race, or gender.
There are many contracts between the society in the play and the society we live in today, namely, as it is set in Russia in the early 19th Century. However, the similarities are equally noticeable. The celebrity aspect of the play (Arkadina and Trigorin), mirrors the actresses and reality TV stars that are worshipped by society in magazines such as OK! or NOW! I can totally imagine Arkadina being on the cover of Cosmo, guiding the public on ways to look younger as she recommends in the play: “I work…I travel…”
Other characters, such as Konstantin, can also be easily related to, as he mirrors the many youths today who struggle to exceed their families’ expectations, to succeed in exams and in finding their own place in society.
All these similarities between the characters in the play and modern society contributed to it being very suited to a young cast. Of course, challenges arise in every corner of life, such as relating to other complex aspects in the play- naivety and regret. However, the guidance offered to the cast by the production team and the director was so helpful and aided us through the challenges in the play. They helped us to reconnect with the unfamiliar social context, and were so clear and precise.
Eve Russell, Activate Youth Theatre
NYT is more immersive, more difficult and more rewarding than any other production I’ve done. With no other production have I left home for 5 weeks to live/eat/fight/jog/play frisbee with the rest of the cast, with no other production have I rehearsed such long days, with no other production have I seen anything remotely as strange as Chekhov interpreted through the medium of cult indie rock anthems performed by an accordion-guitar-violin ensemble.
Thorough, I think, is the word to describe NYT rehearsals. The script and our performance of it is something we spend only half to two thirds of our time on. Every day begins with a warm up, usually 20-odd minutes of Feldenkraisian breathing, relaxing and screwing in imaginary light bulbs to get voices and bodies working after a long yesterday. Some mornings we work more on voice, on movement, on music, on anything that needs doing. We play games with the script, to get to know it better and find new senses in lines we thought we knew. We play with our set and moving it/moving on it, how gesture and body language and location affect your performance. We play games with our voices, see what they can do and persuade them to do that bit more with that much less effort. Sometimes we do all three at once and end up with a huge (and hugely entertaining) mess of people shouting and jumping around and making bits of the set sway ominously and, if they’re me, breaking microphone stands. Sorry again, everyone.
Since first moving in to Marino, I think I’ve gotten louder and more confident and more precise and I’m fairly sure that most of the cast would say the same.
Fingers crossed for the show itself, so.
Dylan Coburn Gray, Dublin Youth Theatre