And so to the White Bear for the first of Chekhov's "big four" frequently performed plays. In truth, this is really a transitional work that hasn't entirely left behind the taint of melodrama – contrast the ending on the dramatic news that (spoiler alert) Konstantin has shot himself with Uncle Vanya, which ends not on Astrov and Yelena's departure but on Vanya and Sonya settling back into the comfortless routine of their lives, knowing there's nothing more than this to hope for.

This is the first production by newly formed Meisner-based company Front Foot Theatre. The company consists of Kim Hardy and Julia Papp, who as well as co-producing play Konstantin and Nina respectively, having played these roles together during a workshop and wanting to develop their interpretation further. The actors come from a wide variety of national backgrounds, from Ireland to Hungary, and kudos to them for not trying to disguise their natural accents – it rarely works convincingly, and even when it does it takes energy away from where it's most needed.

The White Bear is hardly a huge space, but there's no avoiding Chekhov's stipulation for the first act of a number of chairs facing a stage initially obscured by a curtain, and set designer Joana Dias somehow manages to fit it all in at the cost of having most of the cast facing away from the audience (and with the predictable problem that some audience members tried to sit in the onstage chairs). Throughout this scene sound designer Stefan Andrews gave us just the right balance of lakeside noises, noticeable without being intrusive. On the subject of the venue, there's obviously no need to bellow Henry Irving-style in a theatre where the audience can't be more than 10 feet away from you, but some cast members muttered so quietly they were unintelligible even here – Stephen Christos as Sorin and Paul Hughes as Shamrayev in particular, the latter made worse because he also rushed his lines.

Amongst the main roles the stand out success was the gloriously natural performance of Louise Templeton as Arkadina – she delivered the line where she tells Konstantin that Nina will love him again after she's taken Trigorin away as if she had no conception of how insulting this was to him. As Trigorin, Michael Luke Walsh has the vulnerability for the scene where he tells Nina that being a famous artist isn't as great as she imagines, but I'm not sure he contrasts enough with this the rest of the time – there should be a sense that he's letting Nina see behind the public persona everyone else gets. In fact, I'd say he was more a Konstantin than a Trigorin – his face conveys the timid uncertainty of a puppy wondering whether it's going to be hit again – whereas Kim Hardy, with his Onegin-like good looks, would make a natural Trigorin, the glamorous and exotic interloper into Konstantin's world. However, as it stands he's far too busy as an actor, a constant whirl of movement and gesture where stillness might convey a lot more.

Julia Papp is effective and sympathetic as Nina, though again sometimes prone to muttering – I'm always interested to see whether a production follows Michael Frayn's advice that Nina actually says "I am the seagull" not "a seagull", but I honestly couldn't tell which one Papp was saying. Stephen Christos is likeable as Sorin, playing him as something like a bumbling Jurassic Park-era Richard Attenborough, while James Tweedy is promising in the small role of Medvedenko, reacting excellently to Masha's casual slights.

The Seagull, at The White Bear

A promising start for this newly formed Meisner-based company Front Foot Theatre, though it's fair to say a few issues remain to be ironed out. At the White Bear Theatre.

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