It is Chekhov, but not as we know it! In the very warm and pleasant surrounds of the White Bear Theatre, Kennington, I took my seat with certain expectations of seeing one of Chekhov’s most famous and popular plays. Three Sisters was written in 1901 and seen as very modernist for its time. I was delighted by FiasCo Theatre’s contemporary interpretation of this classic – not only modernised but also westernised, giving the play a whole new fervour.
The intimate space set as a lounge area in present times, at some points is full and boisterous with characters seemingly enjoying life, and immediately encompassing the audience into their world. Indeed, as they begin to sing happy birthday it takes restraint not to join in, as the feeling of being in their room is consuming. It is not so long before this seemingly happy band of friends and relations are exposed as being a façade, with each one having hidden issues and personal torments. The reality of this we can all relate to. At the centre of this pretence are the three dissatisfied sisters: Charlotte, whose career has taken over her life leaving little time for love; Emily, who married too young before ever experiencing life; Anne, who has yet to discover what love is. Each sister has a fixation on a better life, obsessing on happier times and on a return to London where all their dreams will be fulfilled.
These three sisters, portray three different sides of the female psyche. Camilla Harding as Charlotte is strong as the young matriarchal figure of the family, soft but with a steely resolve to do what she has to do. Lizzie Hiscott as Anne beautifully portrays a childlike innocence on the verge of womanhood to whom the reality of work and love do not match with the ideals she held of them. Annemarie Highmore as Emily is marvellous in her representation of a woman who is bitter, disappointed and resentful of the loss of her youth, too soon married to a pleasant but wholly unsuitable man. But this is not just a play about women, the men are just as vulnerable with just as many troubles: gambling, unrequited love, jealousy, failure, alcoholism and betrayal, and that is the beauty of it. There is no taboo subject. This group are all equally flawed and it is very moving sitting so closely watching them all fight their personal demons – even the less likeable characters. Diana Vucane is excellent as the hard, cold, controlling Natasha. So much so that we forget that as we started, it was she who was ridiculed and belittled. This made her the selfish, commanding woman whose role as the only mother in the household gains her ultimate power over everything.
Chekhov has given us a very personal and brutally honest view of life. We all wish for a better life but outside influences are not under our control and affect our choices and paths. There are many stories interwoven, as there are in any family. It is easy to care and wish for the happy ending that everybody deserves. The FiasCo Theatre Company have done an outstanding job of making Chekhov warm and relevant. The cast, under Highmore’s direction, are completely solid and it is this unification of talent that gives the play the realism of family life, with everyone hoping that they can find the happiness that they deserve.
Review by Rachel Borland
After the well-received production of “Hedda Gabler” FiasCo Theatre return this autumn with yet another classic masterpiece about failed expectations.
When all other hopes have left, one by one, there is only one thing that grows stronger and stronger in the hearts of the three sisters: the dream of going home, in Anton Chekhov’s play about emotional exile, intellectual solitude, and dreams that refuse to die.
“We are never happy, only long to be. Happiness is not for us. It is for our very remote descendants.”
Annemarie Highmore (RADA alumna), one of the co-founders of FiasCo Theatre and the Artistic Director of Three Sisters said of this production: “Desiring to return to the city from the rural backwater where they have ended up after the death of their parents, the sisters watch year after year pass in a haze of inaction and procrastination, never arriving at what they deem to be individual happiness. The creative team behind 2014’s enthusiastically received “Hedda Gabler”, look at the reasons why the sisters never get there, and what perhaps the future holds for their inescapable situation of sisterly dependency. Looking at their view of happiness, perceptions of romance and dream of something better, FiasCo expose the poignancy, the familiarity and the recognisable traits of the Prozorovs’ situation bringing those facets into sharp relief for a contemporary audience.”
The creative team of FiasCo love experimenting with classical texts, not out of a self indulgent need of being provocative, but in order to see what new connotations new contexts can extract from the well known texts, while remaining loyal to their original message and archetypical characters.
The White Bear Theatre
138 Kennington Park Rd
14th – 25th October 2014.
Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm,
Sunday at 6pm
TICKETS: £14 (£10 concessions)
BOX OFFICE : 0844 8700 887
(£1.50 booking per call)
Friday 17th October 2014