Production photography by Marnya Rothe.
While long, this is a tremendous production, more faithful to Chekhov in spirit than recent revivals seen in Sydney. The play features a new translation by Karen Vickery that makes the play seem fresh and relevant. One picks up the plays’ similarities to other Chekhov works in particular The Cherry Orchard.
Director Kevin Jackson and his wonderful cast have caught the Russian melancholy and ennui perfectly. The production is magnificently performed. There is a huge cast -fourteen of the cast in credited roles and six others as servants/military /singers.- all of whom give fine, inspired performances.
With wonderful designs by Georgia Hopkins the first act sees a cluttered, crowded set of tables overflowing with books, well used worn chairs, rugs, a piano, a niche with an icon all evoking provincial Russia circa 1900. When we move into the second half, and the characters become increasingly unhappy with their lives, the stage space as defined by the rugs is halved; indicating that the action takes place in the smaller, upstairs parlour, and also reflectively surrounding the actors with empty, black space (and ominous fire-lit warmth ). For the final scenes, the carpets are rolled up and the furniture hidden under dust sheets, replaced with white wicker garden furniture, and lush green pot plants, which signify indicate the new beginnings planned. Emma Vine’s costumes are superb as is Martin Kinnane’s lighting design.
The Prozorov sisters and their friends are frozen and trapped by passivity. Full of bored restlessness they enthusiastically spout wondrous passages about the need to work and be busy but do nothing much really. They fail to achieve their hopes and dreams.
There is very little privacy in their crowded house. The three sisters are Irina, Masha and Olga, who we observe over a period of five years. Stuck in provincial Perm, they all desperately want to return to Moscow , yearning to return to a life nostalgically remembered. Yet that life is now a fragile chimera and impossible to recreate so they are doomed to disappointment. As well, the play examines the accepted inequalities of Russian society of that time .Jackson illustrates the gulf between the ruling class and the serfs by the unspoken barrier between the two and the physical marginalization of the servant class as we see how Ferapont (John Grinston ) and Anfisa ( Lyn Pierse ) are treated .
In some ways the characters are perhaps similar to those of Jane Austen’s characters in Bath – with all the military around. The depressed sisters anxiously live for the possibility of escaping their deadly dull lives via the officers – through evening entertainment and talk, marriage, or flirtation – and a vicarious entree into a far worldlier life .It is also interesting to see how especially in Act 1 there are overlapping voices and all the characters are given great definition throughout it is as if one has used a time machine and is eavesdropping …
The three sisters are excellently played by Zoe Jensen ( Irina – blonde, blue eyed and charming), Paige Gardiner ( Masha – the middle sister who is the artist of the family) and Janine Watson (Olga , the eldest sister, a school teacher who eventually becomes headmistress ). The three convincingly portray a very loving, sisterly bond as well as showing their individual qualities.
Their brother Andrey (Tom Campbell) has dreams of becoming a professor in Moscow but his rather unfortunate marriage and heavy debts prevent this. By the end of the play he has disintegrated into a shell like, defeated husk of his former self.
As Natasha, their spiteful, controlling, scheming sister in law (Andrey’s wife ) Lauren Richardson darkly glitters. Pompous , bombastic high school teacher Kulyghin , Masha’s husband , irritatingly spouts Latin and was jovially played by Kenneth Moraleda. His character becomes more and more sympathetic as he becomes aware of as well as accepting of Masha’s infidelity.
Lieutenant Colonel Vershinin , commander of the artillery battery, a thoughtful philosopher who has an affair with Masha was brilliantly played by charismatic Justin Stewart-Cotta . Baron Tuzenbach , in love with Irina , was played by dashingly handsome Graeme McRae . Anti hero and social misfit philosopher Captain Solony, melancholic and OCD afflicted, was captivatingly played by Dorje Swallow. Noel Hodda gave a fine, sensitive performance as the alcoholic, avuncular Chebutykin, the garrison doctor.
A very compelling and intense production that was poignant, rich and, at times, funny.
Running time allow 3 and a half hours including one interval.
Sport for Jove’s revival of THE THREE SISTERS, directed by Kevin Jackson, is playing at the Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre until August 13.