The Seagull

Written by Anton Chekhov (translated by Ronald Hingley)

Thursday 4th May to Saturday 6th May and Tuesday 9th May to Saturday 13th May 1989

Directed by John Scadding

The first production of this play was a complete disaster - and it has been popular ever since! Anton Chekhov was the Woody Allen of his century and this everyday story of people round a lake in the 1890s is about the nuisance of love and the comedy of tragedy

AuthorAnton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov (1860 - 1904)

Born in Southern Russia of humble origin, Chekhov studied Medicine at Moscow University, and while there, in order to support his family, he turned to writing. He graduated in 1884 and shortly after leaving turned to drama, although he was to continue to practise medicine for the rest of his life. The production of the Moscow Arts Theatre of his play 'The Seagull' in 1898 was the first to achieve the delicate balance of tragedy and comedy which is Chekhov's most individual contribution to drama. However, his originality also consists of an early use of the stream-of-consciousness technique, combined with a disavowal of the moral finality of traditional story structure. Another revolutionary quality in Chekhov's work was that his plays were written for a team of actors rather than for one or two star principals and supporting cast.

TranslatorRonald Hingley

Ronald Hingley (1920 - 2010)

Ronald Hingley produced his acclaimed translation of Chekhov's stories in the 1960s and rose to become Emeritus Professor at St Antony's College, Oxford. He was praised, in particular, for the attention he paid to colloquial speech, reflecting Chekhov's ability to capture all facets of Russian society. Inspired in his boyhood to learn Russian after reading the Catherine Garnett translation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's 'The Brothers Karamazov', Ronald Hingley later devoted his life to the study of Russian literature and political history. Hingley described himself as "a teacher by trade and an academic not a professional author." Although his scholarly activity has embraced literary criticism, translation, political analysis, and the examination of broad literary trends, Hingley's biographical work is perhaps most worthy of note. His major effort in biography, and certainly his best-known work, is 'A New Life of Anton Chekhov' (1976) and he was the foremost translator of Chekhov's plays.

PlayThe Seagull

The Seagull was written in 1895 and first produced in 1896. It dramatises the romantic and artistic conflicts between four characters; the ingenue Nina, the fading actress Irina, her son the symbolist playwright Constantine and the famous story writer Trigorin. The play takes place on a country estate owned by Sorin, a former government employee with failing health. He is the brother of the famous actress Irina, who has just arrived at the estate with her lover, Trigorin, for a brief sojourn.

The opening night of the first production was a famous failure. The actress playing Nina was so intimidated by the hostility of the audience that she lost her voice. Chekhov himself left the audience and spent the last two acts behind the scenes. However, later, when Constantin Stanislavsky directed it in 1898 for his Moscow Art Theatre, the play was a triumph and it has been performed all over the world ever since.

The Bench Production

The Seagull poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


Irina ArkadinaIngrid Corrigan
Constantine TreplevNicholas Moseley
Peter SorinJim Hemmings
Nina ZarechnyJane Hemsley-Brown
Ilya ShamrayevTerry Hemsley-Brown
Polina ShamrayevNicola Scadding
MashaJo German
Boris TrigorinSteven Foden
Eugene DornDavid Penrose
Simon MedvedenkoVincent Adams
ServantsNeil Kendall, Paddy Timmins
Lisa Thomas


Director John Scadding
Stage Manager David Hemsley-Brown
Lighting Grant Best, Mark Gay
Costume Design Jane Hemsley-Brown
Set Design Nicholas Moseley

Director's Notes

'The Seagull' is the third play by Chekhov which the Bench Theatre Company has mounted - and it doesn't seem to get any easier!

Chekhov's own individual mixture of the passionate and the ridiculous continues to be the very devil to capture. No wonder there is a temptation to simplify his plays and leave out the ridiculous and go for the sad and sentimental. Or just to act quirky and to hell with the heartache.

Well, here we are again, after 'The Cherry Orchard' and 'The Three Sisters', having another go at getting the mix right.

We hope you enjoy the struggle

John Scadding

Programme Notes

Anton Chekhov was born the third of six children. His father ran a corner shop in provincial Russia. After going bankrupt, Papa Chekhov fled to Moscow, leaving young Anton at home to fend for himself and sell the saucepans. He eventually joined the family in Moscow, where they lived next to a brothel, then underneath a dance hall, and eventually in a nice flat paid for by Anton, who sold funny words for balloons in Moscow comics.

He became a medical student, sold comic short stories, and invited Tchaikovsky to tea, who played the piano. Anton's first assignment as a doctor was to pull a girl's tooth out. The doctor nearly fainted. He consequently wrote more and more stories and doctored less and less.

He bought a small country estate south of Moscow where he lived with his parent and two dachshunds called Morphine and Strychnine.

He spent most of his forty four years of life trying to kid himself he didn't have galloping consumption. When he finally admitted it, he married an actress who bought him three new suits and took him to Germany. He died in a hotel opposite the post office drinking champagne at two o'clock in the morning, just as he wished it.

His body was taken back t Russia in a railway truck marked "FOR OYSTERS ONLY". At Moscow railway station, his coffin got mixed up with a famous general's, and he was accompanied to the cemetery by a full brass band and a military escort.

His four main plays are considered some of the greatest ever written. The first of the four is called 'The Seagull'.

Production Photographs