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Tier Three Sisters at The Hope Theatre | Review

It’s billed as ‘man-free’, and on paper, it is. But Olga (Chloe Metcalfe) calls out to the off-stage ‘Alan’ so many times the narrative ultimately suggests otherwise. Tier Three Sisters is a significant departure from the Chekhov play – there’s not a soldier in sight, though public health restrictions have largely prevented any in-person interactions, and so the trio are confined (as it were) to living, or rather existing, in lockdown.

Tier Three Sisters at The Hope TheatreGiven the contemporary setting, one would have thought there would be plenty of online content to keep the characters amused. Masha (Bryony Davies) is busy on her laptop, but the youngest sister, Irina (Chloe Wade) would rather play Scrabble – and not via the Scrabble app, either: out come the board, the little trays and the bag full of letters. With plenty of time on their hands, there’s plenty of time for introspection, and for sibling squabbles.

Occasionally, the play borders on the ridiculous. Olga has an ambition of going to Manchester once restrictions permit, though it is not clear whether she is intent on selling up and moving there or doing a day trip for the first time since lockdown measures were first announced. The problem (for want of a better word) with setting a show in ‘Tier 3’ is that, by definition, not a lot happens. Irina goes to work – in her choice of words, as a frontline worker – which allows her to leave the house. But whether in or out, the struggle for all the ladies is real, and relatable.

Direct addresses to the audience help to maintain interest, as do asides. Irina is at a crossroads, and the other two take opposite views on how she should proceed, and it becomes a battle of wits between Steady As She Goes and You Only Live Once. Olga says she doesn’t want Irina to make the ‘same mistakes’ she made in her younger years, which is fair enough, but I’d have liked some more details on what those supposed mistakes were. Her attempts to steer Irina towards the ‘right’ decision begs a question about whether certain mistakes should be allowed to be made, in order for someone to learn from them, and therefore benefit in the longer run.

There’s some actor-musicianship to enjoy, with a ukulele on stage, and a song about the evil (and gloriously underwritten) off-stage Natasha. For all the faffing about and talk of what’s for dinner that evening, there are some insights into what the younger adult generations have found themselves facing up to during the pandemic. The sisters may not have suffered any physical effects from Covid, though there is something to be said about mental health issues that the restrictions have exacerbated. The show ends randomly and abruptly, which seemed to sum up the show as a whole – experimental, unconventional and a tad eccentric.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

A modern female-led adaptation of the Chekhov classic.
In a small back garden in Lancashire, the seasons pass in lockdown. Three siblings frustrate and fortify each other, reminiscing about precedented times as the world shrinks and crumbles around them, figuratively but also literally on stage. As the sisters’ pine for their near-yet-so-far equivalent of Moscow (Manchester city centre) the play itself yearns to wriggle free of its own formal origins, breaking the fourth wall and bending its own realist logic. In doing so, it questions modern ideas around ambition (thwarted or otherwise), responsibility and loneliness through a female lens and a lockdown aperture, magnifying issues pushed to the fore by the year we’ve all just experienced.

The Hope Theatre
Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 1RL
9th – 15th August 2021
https://www.thehopetheatre.com/

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