When we read drama we’re really only getting half the experience, and to fully appreciate a play one must see it performed. Having two children, one only two weeks old, has meant that my time is heavily restricted at the moment. So I’ve unhappily not been able to see the highly rated production of The Seagull that’s currently playing at the Royal Court in London, with Kristin Scott Thomas as Madame Arkadina and Mackenzie Crooks as Konstantin. I’m even finding it hard to get time to sit down and watch television, so there’s no point in me buying the DVDs of The Seagull and Uncle Vanya on sale at Amazon right now.
Given my time-poverty, I took a chance and downloaded Blackstone Audiobooks’ Seven Classic Plays on iTunes for my iPod, as it includes an unabridged production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, as well as Ibsen’s An Enemy Of The People, Shaw’s Arms And Man, Euripides’ Medea and Shakespeare’s The Tempest and more. It cost me £21.95, but it was worth it, as I’ve been able to listen to a surprisingly good production of the play while I’m on the move, with excellent acting and atmospheric audio effects. Obviously this is not as good as getting to the theatre, or seeing a filmed version, but it’s a big step beyond the printed page, and has really helped to bring this wonderful play to life for me. (I’m hoping to offset the cost further by suggesting we tackle one or more of the other plays included in the download in later Culture Club sessions.)
I’m afraid I can’t say the same for the audiobook version of The Seagull that’s on sale through iTunes. It’s not a fully staged dramatisation, but a reading narrated by one actor, and even though one gets used to the clunkiness this invokes (eg the announcement of each character’s name before every chunk of dialogue), the format prevents it from rising to the level of true drama.