- Arts & Literature
- Science & Technology
By Rushaa Louise Hamid
It seems like a job with no rewards, trying to rewrite a canonical play in an attempt to shed some new light on the piece. Either it goes well and people are merely satisfied or it goes badly and they wonder attempted the task in the first place. Currently the Young Vic is staging a new version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters by Benedict Andrews, a partial update, with reference to modern technology (such as televisions) throughout and a more colloquial tongue, especially through the use of swearing. Sadly Andrews is not up to the task.
Three Sisters focuses on a family of siblings living in a remote Russian town, who long to return to Moscow, waiting for the day when their only brother, Andrey (Danny Kirrane), finishes his PhD so they can leave. Self-appointed matriarch Olga (Mariah Gale) is a school teacher who feels that life has passed her by, while middle sister, Masha (Vanessa Kirby) is in a marriage she regrets, and the youngest, Irina (Gala Gordon), is full of youthful idealism – simply waiting for Moscow where she feels her life will begin. Naturally obstacles arise and we watch the gradual erosion of the family’s hope take the literal form of a slowly dismantled stage.
The acting itself is good, as the cast do their best with the flawed dialogue; which frequently violates the ‘show not tell’ rule. The most difficult character in this version is Mariah Gale’s Olga who often, in the most stilted parts of the play, has to reel off long and jarringly awkward exposition, just so we know exactly where we are.
At three hours (including a short interval) this is a long play, and for a play to be that long it has to be very good. It seems to me that shortening this piece would make it a much better experience; there are good moments, but they are pieced together with long, tedious scenes. It appears as though Andrews feels there is poignancy in these elongated pauses that in actual fact just make the production drag.
Three Sisters is a play you want to like, desperately. It is a desperate search for isolated moments of brilliance in the hope that they will justify your desire to enjoy this piece. Unfortunately for the most part I felt just as bored in the theatre as the three sisters do in their remote Russian town.
** (2 Stars)
Three Sisters plays at the Young Vic theatre, London, until November 3rd.