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Review of Three Sisters at Theatro Technis

Andrey (Jamie Collins Spindlove ) and Natasha (Viktorija Kriaučlūnaite)
Andrey (Jamie Collins Spindlove) and Natasha (Viktorija Kriaučlūnaite)

One of these days, somebody somewhere will put on an adaptation of Three Sisters in which one of the sisters finds a way, however implausible, for them to go to Moscow after all. In the meantime, this version presented by the Acting Gymnasium has a running time considerably shorter than the two hours and fifty-five minutes the recent production at the Almeida Theatre had. This one also has a set so purple it might as well have been designed by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. I felt as though I ought to have kept a tally of how many times the word ‘Moscow’ is said during the show – an online copy of Constance Garnett’s 1916 translation has forty-nine; this version felt as though it had more.

It felt somewhat lighter than other productions of this often-performed play. Natasha (Viktoria Kriaučiūnaitė) isn’t nearly as unpleasant as she could have been, and if it appears that she is getting her own way too much, being married to the man of the house Andrey (Jamie Collins Spindlove), then it’s really for one or more of the three sisters of the play’s title – Olga (Kia Kielty), Masha (Leena Makoff) and Irina (Bronwen Bazzard) – to have had a quiet word with Andrey. The music used for scene changes is rather more contemporary than the play’s original setting would suggest – including a track by Joy Division, though my knowledge of rock music in the post-punk era doesn’t extend to being able to identify which one.

Otherwise, though, it’s a largely faithful production, with no significant narrative surprises. The cast make good use of props, including a particularly amusing moment (for me, at least) at the start of Act Two (of four) where Natasha is stroking a toy cat as though it were Mr Bigglesworth, the cat belonging to Dr Evil in the Austin Powers motion picture series. Leaving the cat on the settee, it then appears to be sat on by a character whose actor’s blushes I will spare, and then later (by someone else again) placed on the floor. Elsewhere, the goodbyes of the soldiers – Baron Tuzenback (Kim Koskinen), Fedotik (Henry Esdon) and Rody (Davide Mantovani) are about as repetitive as the closing sequence of an episode of Teletubbies.

The other military personnel, their battery commander Vershinin (Sunil Patel) and their doctor Chebutykin (Alan Kenny), are both philosophical creatures in their own ways – the former tackling questions of life and the latter having seen enough of life to be sanguine and stoical about practically everything, adopting a ‘don’t you worry, it might never happen’ approach. If there was any doubt as to how fleeting life is, it’s dissipated by Chebutykin’s stark but nonetheless realistic perspective.

If the song and dance musical theatre shows put forward the idea of hope beyond circumstances and triumph over adversity, Chekhov’s play invariably portrays, broadly speaking, the opposite – bold ambitions gradually worn down by the circumstances of life. Looking at the turn of the twentieth century, one might conclude that the society of the play’s day didn’t permit women to be in the driving seat of their own destinies. But is it really that much better for the men in the play?

As ever, the sisters share a common affinity whilst being rather distinct characters. Overall, this production is steadily paced, with a lot of comings and goings, the front room of the family home shrewdly compared by Olga to a “public highway”, and if the pace had been picked up somewhat, it might have been a farce. In the closing scene, it gets dangerously close to melodrama, but the relative lack of sentimentality elsewhere more than makes up for that in this compelling Chekhov classic. Tough going, perhaps (for both cast and audience), but worthwhile.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Set in a changing 1980s Perestroika USSR, the Prozorov family, trapped in a provincial backwater garrison town yearn for love, adventure and their dream move – to Moscow!!
A modernised and progressive production of the classic play by Chekhov returns to Theatro Technis for a limited run.

CAST
Olga – Kia Kielty
Masha – Leena Makoff
Irina – Bronwen Bazzard
Andrey – Jamie Collins Spindlove
Kulygin – Oliver Mayo
Vershinin – Sunny Patel
Tuzenbach – Kim Koshinen
Solyony – Andre Pinto
Chebutykin – Alan Kenny
Fedotik -Henry Edson
Rody – Davide Mantovani
Ferapont – Alex Shkiruts
Anfisa – Lina Cherrat

Three Sisters Friday 14th June – Saturday 4th July 2019.
Theatro Technis, 26 Crowndale Road, NW1 1TT.

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