At the end of ‘The Seagull’ the audience will have seen Nina’s journey from youthful optimism in Act One, as the adored girlfriend of Konstantin and a would-be actress, to disappointment and unhappiness in Act Four, as the abandoned lover of Trigorin and a third rate professional actress.
If I were to play the role of Nina, I would want my audience to be saddened by my final appearance at the end of the play and yet to respond positively to my fortitude. The audience see that my dreams have been thwarted, although not extinguished.
Nina is a very significant character in the play, she is the character most clearly associated with the motif of the seagull, and, although not always considered to be the main role in the play, this association suggests that ‘The Seagull’ might be considered to be Nina’s story.
In order to achieve my preferred audience response of sadness and respect for Nina at the end of the play, I intend to play the role naturalistically; I will have to prepare the audience, carefully in the Acts leading up to it.
All of the characters in the play seem to be unfulfilled in some way but Nina’s youth and purity should mark her out especially for audience sympathy.
I will play Nina as a very pretty young girl in Act One with natural beauty and an open and unaffected charm. I will be blonde haired and blue-eyed and rounded in my figure. I envisage Madame Arkadina as dark haired and very trim in her figure; where she is imperious and affected, Nina is sweet, a little shy, and very natural.
The contrast between the two women is significant as Arkadina is a great actress and Nina aspires to be similarly successful. Nina’s fresh faced beauty inspires jealousy in Arkadina, while Arkadina only inspires Nina’s admiration.
My very first appearance should charm the audience as much as I charm Konstantin and Sorin. When Konstantin addresses Nina as ‘Enchantress’, I will look coyly away and then back at him directly with a big smile. I am out of breath from rushing but the pleasure of having arrived in time for the performance allows me to laugh easily as I re-call that I have been hurrying, ‘whipping and whipping the horse’. I will imitate the action here in an unreserved way- causing both Sorin and Konstantin to laugh with me.
When Nina is left alone with Konstantin I will smile widely at him. At this point in the play the audience needs to know what the relationship is exactly between Nina and Konstantin. When I am talking about my father’s disapproval of the ‘bohemian’ reputation of Konstantin’s family I will giggle to myself then slow down and take Konstantin’s hand, saying earnestly, ‘But it’s the lake that draws me here, like a seagull’ – this line is so important in establishing Nina as the seagull that I will pause afterwards, drop Konstantin’s hand and use my shawl like a pair of wings as I twirl around, smiling. After a pause I say, ‘…My heart’s full of you’ again smiling directly into Konstantin’s face.
The audience will remember this moment in the final scene when I recite some lines from Konstantin’s play. I have already said, quite tenderly, ‘It was good, (pause) before, Kostya’ and, having reached the end of the recitation, I will hold my arms out again, clutching my white shawl, in a movement that will remind them of my earlier frivolity so that they will be saddened to see what has happened to the girl who was drawn to the lake, and to Kostya, before she met Trigorin.
In Act One, although I am nervous about being seen by the others, I allow Konstantin to kiss me, but then, in keeping with late nineteenth century conventions of courtship, I modestly pull away and ask about the elm tree, to try to divert Konstantin and prevent him from any more amorous behaviour. I will show my purity...