Benedict Andrews' 2011 production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull
transposes the provincial isolation of the Russian dramatist's late
nineteenth century county estate to coastal Australia. In doing so, the
Australian director, influenced by Patrick White's literary assault on
the dominant traditions of mid-twentieth century Australia, critiques
the aesthetic 'realities' of the local theatre landscape. Chekhov's character
Treplev's quest for "new forms" culminates in the realisation of
the pragmatic compromises key to building and sustaining a career in
an artistic profession. In Andrews' production two large scale signs
consisting of fluorescent bulbs forming the words 'REAL LIFE' constitute
a graphic, ironic comment on not simply the illusion of life on
stage, but the problem of artistic fulfilment in contemporary Australia.
Against an iconic image of isolation, the quintessential Australian
holiday shack, Andrews' neon reminder of the limits of the theatrical
medium raises the question of the internationalist aspirations of a
new generation of artists in Australia.