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Three Sisters Review 1999

The story concerns three sisters Irina, Masha and Olga, who after the death of their father, talk about escaping from their dull garrison town and going to Moscow where they hope to fulfil their dreams and aspirations. The warm and plain Olga desires the love of a man, but is resigned to remaining a spinster and continuing to live in the town as headmistress of the local school. The seemingly strong willed Masha, is married to a teacher she finds boring and so as taken a lover. However, as events unfold and she is forced to rely upon her own inner resources, we discover she is not as strong as she first appeared. Irina, the youngest sister, is charming and lively at the beginning of the play, but soon becomes disenchanted and distressed when her dreams of going to Moscow are not realised. She agrees to become married to a man she does not love, but a tragedy prevents the marriage from taking place.

Directed by Dominic Dromgoole, this fresh new adaptation has a modern feel to it with dilemmas and bitter disappointments that are as real today as they were when the play was first written at the beginning of the century. The sisters are asking why we have to suffer and they conclude that if we knew why then maybe we could learn to accept it.

This production features a young cast of British talent that is passionate and energetic. Claire Rushbrook as 'Olga', Claudie Blakley as 'Masha' and Kelly Reilly as 'Irina' all give convincing performances that helps to create a 'real' feeling of kinship on stage. There are also notable performances from Robert Langdon-Lloyd as Dr Chebutykin, an alcoholic quack, and Indira Varma as the bossy and insensitive 'Natasha'.

This production has received fair notices from the popular press: BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE of THE TIMES says it is an "highly intelligent production". JANE EDWARDES of TIME OUT says, "The evening is fresh, sexy and astonishingly alive." CHARLES SPENCER of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "I have rarely seen Chekhov performed with such freshness and spontaneity." However, NICK CURTIS of THE EVENING STANDARD had mixed feelings saying, "Dromgoole's production is fine indeed, but it's also over three hours long, and there's only so much of The Three Sisters I can take." The healine in the STAGE by IAN SHUTTLEWORTH says, "Curate's egg that lacks coherence."

This production is thought provoking, sensitive and witty, with lots of energy that creates an evening of great theatre. It is well worth a visit to the Whitehall to catch this one, but be quick because it is only playing for a limited season to 3rd July.

(Darren Dalglish)

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