19th century Russia meets 20th century Deep South in Tennessee Williams’ “free adaptation” of Chekhov’s The Seagull.

The names, the characters and the basic plot are little changed, but in this culmination of a lifelong fascination with the original, the American playwright adds his distinctive voice to a familiar classic.

The focus shifts more towards Trigorin (an intense Stephen Billington), popular novelist and lover of actress Arkadina, here an insecure, attention-seeking Southern Belle who refuses to face up to the process of aging.

Williams reimagines Trigorin as secretly bisexual (with an eye for the stable boys as well as for aspiring young actress Nina), clearly identifying both with him and with Constantine (Arkadina’s son) as he, too, struggles with his writing.

The servants are black, which adds an extra dimension to the carelessly cruel behaviour of the leering doctor, Dorn (a far more unpleasant version than Chekhov created) and renders alcoholic Masha’s infatuation with Constantine completely hopeless. 

It’s an interesting exercise which only saw the light of day (in Vancouver) in 1981, just a couple of years before Williams’ death.

But although the enterprising Finborough deserves praise for staging the London premiere, the innovations are too muted to make this a definite “must see” for fans of either playwright.



Finborough, Finborough Road,  SW10  9ED. (0844 847 1652)  to 24th April (£11 – £15)