Review: Three Sisters

Written for Time Out

Three Sisters

After the Young Vic’s recent radical interpretation you’d be forgiven in thinking that ‘Three Sisters’ had been ‘updated’ once and for all. But The Faction’s contemporary production is a fresh, if fractured, reading of Anton Chekhov’s classic.

Ranjit Bolt’s sharp adaptation zings with pop culture one liners and places the spotlight on the self-absorbption of the titular trio. Cosmopolitan migrants Olga, Masha and Irina spend hours bemoaning their provincial surroundings and philosophising about life with their cabal of admiring soldiers. Hope soon turns to despondency as their dreams of getting back to Moscow are disappointed and then dashed.

Bolt’s no-nonsense script eschews family dynamic in favour of reinforcing private torments but he avoids sinking things into complete self-pity and retains Chekhov’s lively bitter sweet comedy throughout. The focus on individualism shines a new light on this classic – particularly in dashing soldier Vershinin, whose romantic philosophising and wooing of Masha is hinted at as a selfish façade to pass the time.

It’s an interesting take and an elegantly constructed production, performed by an impressive company. But coupled with costumes that look like they’ve come from Victoria Beckham’s catwalk and a sparse set, Mark Leipacher’s production makes for a very modern – Thatcherite? – ‘Three Sisters’ that begs the question; in this day and age wouldn’t these young women just buy a ticket and go to Moscow?

For more information on this show and The Faction’s rep season at New Diorama go here

How to update a classic play

Written for IdeasTap

How to update a classic play

In the year Chekhov met Cobain, radical interpretations of classics have been all the rage. Honour Bayes looks at what it takes to successfully revamp a golden oldie…

Stay true to the original…

2012 has seen Anton Chekhov get modern makeovers, with Benedict Andrews’ modern-day Three Sisters (including a rendition of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’) and Anya Reiss’ The Seagull, set on the Isle of Man. While each text is decades away from 19th-century Russia, both playwrights remained faithful to Chekhov’s play. “I value the opportunity to meet the play and get to know its characters better,” says Benedict. He adds that the most extreme transformations come from a rigorous re-examining of the text: “The only advice I can give is to not settle for quick answers or second-hand readings – seek out the play’s DNA, its raw fibres, and try to expose them.” Anya looked for the pieces of the original that were eternal: “Once I found them, they became the supports… and it’s just a matter of bridging between these supports, using the original as a blueprint of how you get from these points.” Or as One Man, Two Guvnors writer Richard Bean puts it, “The plot’s [Carlo] Goldoni’s and all the dialogue is mine.”

Read more…

Three Sisters @ Noel Coward Theatre

Written for

Review: Three Sisters – Noel Coward **

Having made a bold start with an engrossing Into The Whirlwind, Sovremennik’s Three Sisters is a distinctly beige vision of Anton Chekhov’s dissection of bourgeoisie disappointment and frustration. Galina Volchek’s respectful and measured production begins with some lovely moments of play between siblings but soon begins to melt into a torpidity which refuses to shift off the shoulders of this soon to be heavy auditorium.

In the midst on this monotony a small sliver of salvation comes from a few wonderful performances and the pleasure of hearing Chekhov’s rich lyricism encased in his native tongue. Chulpan Khamatova’s spirited Masha flickers and burns with intelligent fervour, her velvet voice adding a resolute gravitas to her slight frame and anxious physicality. As her lover Vladislav Vetrov’s Vershinin is both master of his passions and a victim of them, his resigned air lending an impossible charm to this old idealist. Their fated love affair adds spice to an otherwise long second act.

Vyacheslav Zaitsev’s whirligig revolving stage spins our characters round on a futile access of movement, never getting them anywhere. But throughout the production this soon becomes arbitrary and it is never really clear why there is a bridge over the top of this troubled household. Volchek seems to have expended all her vision into a design full of superfluous bells and whistles, leaving her company (and audience) covering dusty old ground.

Sovremennik Season at The Noel Coward Theatre

Written for

Into The Whirlwind

Home to arguably the father of modern theatrical practice Constantin Stanislavski, expressionist master Vsevolod Meyerhold and of course Anton Chekhov, it’s fair to say Russia has a strong theatrical tradition.

Tonight marks the opening of a new season which will allow British theatre goers a glimpse at the state Russian theatre today. Sovremennik (literally translating to ‘contemporary’) will be performing three plays over a nine day run at The Noel Coward Theatre. The strictly limited run has been funded by Chelsea football club owner, Roman Abramovich and promises lavish sets and an ensemble of 50, an extraordinary number in the middle of a worldwide recession.  The season will be the first time that a major Russian theatre company has come to London in 20 years but seems a logical step for this internationally touring company.

The first foreign company to win an American Drama Desk Award they are led by Galina Volchek, a leading figure in the Russian theatrical landscape, and boast a number of film and television stars in the troupe.

The season which will be performed in Russian with English surtitles and will comprise of two Chekhov pieces, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. Tonight marks the opening of the third play, a modern piece penned by journalist Eugenia Ginzburg’s documenting her imprisonment in the Gulag, titled Into The Whirlwind.

Tickets prices go up to £49.50 but for students can be as little as £7, a perfectly reasonable amount to see what modern Russian theatre is made of.

Performance information:

21-22 Jan Into the Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginzburg

24-25 Jan Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov

28-29 Jan  The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

Time: Time: 19.00

Venue: Noel Coward Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4AU

Ticket Prices:         £49.50 – £12.50 ( £7.00 with a student ID card)

Box Office:  0844 482 5140 /