Loosely based on Chekhov’s The Seagull, Beth Hyland’s new musical tells the story of an aspiring band, Seagulls, and their quest for success in.
The background tunes, band posters emblazoned across Katie Scott’s set and lighting design by Kay Buckland effectively evoke the atmosphere of a music gig. But, while the musical performances are strong and the songs are engaging (especially the catchy, rhythmic ‘Remember’), Lotte Wakeham’s production is hamstrung by exposition-heavy dialogue, and characters who are largely unsympathetic and self-absorbed.
The four band members are students at the University of Bolton. A love triangle soon emerges; keyboardist Masha (Lauryn Redding) is in love with lead vocalist Con (Matthew Heywood), but he is smitten with violinist and backing singer, Nina (Flora Spencer-Longhurst). Masha’s boyfriend, bassist Simon (Tomi Ogbaro), hovers in the background trying too hard to please.
Conflict arises from artistic differences, too, with characters pulling the band away from indie folk towards other genres. Heywood clearly conveys Con’s struggle to free himself from the influence of his famous pop singer mother and her successful rock star boyfriend. However, other characters’ backgrounds and motivations are less well-drawn.
With a script sometimes lacking in believable dialogue and emotional depth, the most illuminating and affecting moments appear within the musical numbers. Ogbaro stuns by giving a heartfelt and moving demonstration of Simon’s love for Masha in ‘Anyway,’ while Spencer-Longhurst uses the lyrics of ‘Muse’ to emphasise beautifully why Nina won’t settle for being the Linda to Con’s Paul McCartney.