★★★★★ | | Three Sisters, Southwark Playhouse
Three sisters are living in a vast house three thousand miles from home, longing for different forms of escape as they languish in the Middle East.
Overworked and highly strung English teacher, Olga, yearns for the romance she hasn’t been able to find, as she’s acted as the maternal figure for her younger siblings following the death of their parents. Wild and sullen Masha regrets a hasty marriage to a man she looks down on as a fool and idealistic Irina dreams of returning to England and escaping the boredom of life in an ex-pat community. Meanwhile their brother, Andrey, is failing to live up to his early promise as he contemplates an unsuitable marriage to someone brash and vulgar and is threatening to bring them to ruin with his dissipation.
Tended to by two elderly servants, they rattle around their huge property. Hard drinking, hidden desires and deceit abound as the siblings spar with each other, fend off the outside world and unwittingly welcome in turmoil and chaos in the shape of a trio of soldiers, far from their homes also, and an old family friend with issues with drink and brutal frankness.
Anya Reiss’ skilful reworking of Chekov’s classic 1901 play brings it bang up to date into the 21st century and proves what a witty and skilled observer of human nature the author was. Language and situation may have changed radically in over a hundred years but motivations and desires haven’t. The complex plot is retold beautifully and with panache.
This play certainly packs a punch with breath-taking performances, a versatile and well-utilised set and a well paced dramatic arc. Southwark Playhouse has managed to pull off an astounding piece of theatre. The cast are particularly strong with knock out performances all round.
If you’re a Chekov fan then this won’t disappoint. If you’re new to Chekov’s work then you couldn’t get a much finer introduction than Reiss’ reworking. This has to be one of the must see plays of the spring.
Three Sisters is on at Southwark Playhouse until the 3rd of May 2014
Book tickets here: http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/index.php/the-large/three-sisters/
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.