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Theatre: The Seagull

A Seagull's swansong at Library

The Seagull

The Lowry, Salford

3 Stars

In 1946 Manchester Corporation took a bold decision and established the Library Theatre to bring classic and contemporary theatre to the people of the city and the new venue's inaugural production was Anton Chekov's The Seagull.

Over the ensuing decades, the theatre established itself as one of the most important cultural venues in Manchester, not always an easy task.

During the 1980s, when the Thatcher government put tight restrictions on council spending, the theatre almost folded but resilience and high quality productions ensured it remained at the heart of Manchester's theatre scene.

So there is some sadness that with this production, the theatre will pass into the city's cultural history. Home, a new international contemporary art organisation combining the Library Theatre and the city's art house cinema The Cornerhouse, will be born.

There's obvious nostalgia in the theatre closing with a production of The Seagull, in my view not one of Chekov's greatest works. Some years ago this paper famously described it as Chekhov's turkey.

But this is a very different play than the one that opened in 1947, with the wonderful young playwright Anya Reiss injecting energy and life into this drama set in the Russian countryside at the end of the 19th century.

Her update to modern-day Britain gives it a more cutting edge and the combination of the rewriting, a fine cast and excellent set design make this a much more enjoyable experience than the original perhaps deserves.

The theatre's excellent artistic director Chris Honer (pictured) will bow out when the curtain comes down for the last time on this production - a fitting end to a magnificent career and Manchester owes him a great debt.

Let's hope the new venture will provide many years of dynamic and thrilling theatre in a great city.

Runs until March 8. Box office: 0843 208-6000.

Paul Foley

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