The Seagull and Other Birds at The Dublin Theatre Festival

Pan Pan have long been considered one of Ireland’s most revolutionary theatre companies, recognised throughout the world for pushing the boundaries of  performance to their brink. Undeniably engaging on an intellectual level, Pan Pan’s work can also be accused of alienating its audience – they disavow the conventional and risk losing themselves in the impenetrable realms of the avant-garde.

The Seagull, then, is a play ripe for the Pan Pan treatment. Gavin Quinn and company follow the tale of the troubled, experimental playwright Constantin, the steady rise of his career and fall of his various stunted and failing relationships, with their tongues firmly in their cheeks. After all, his tale smacks strongly of Pan Pan’s own, does it not? Chekov’s text is blown open, the fragments flitting about the stage, mingling with the ‘other birds’ of the production: gannets and gulls and salty sea-birds squawking in the form of Dick Walsh, Hamlet or Hannah Horvath.

One common theme runs through, that of the disaffected artist trying to shape some sort of vision in a world that has turned them nihilistic. Actors use their own names as they tread the steps of familiar characters, accumulating layers of performative tension as the play unravels. Dick Walsh, a playwright himself, rails against the conformity of Gina Moxley, who notably claimed Best Production at The Dublin Fringe just over a week ago for How to Keep an Alien. The entire cast compel from beginning to end, with particular compliments to Walsh and Moxley’s tautly played relationship, Samantha Pearl’s wide eyed ingénue and Una McKevitt’s destructive glare.

As usual, Pan Pan present us with a work that skewers and examines both the contemporary and the classic modes of theatre, but this time with a difference: There is a playfulness to Americanitis, a revelling in the ridiculous-ness of the theatrical experience that is infectious, regardless of your theatrical chops (or lack there of). The Seagull and Other Birds is ambitious, bold, loud, incisive and interrogative, with one crucial verb to knit it all together: The Seagull and Other Birds entertains.

Gillian Greer

Run from Sept 25 – Oct 5 at the Project Arts Centre (Space Upstairs), as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. [Buy tickets]

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