Anton Chekhov’s classic tragicomedy Three Sisters is given a fresh approach in Cordelia Lynn’s modern colloquial version. The story of an upper-middle-class family in decline in imperial Russia at the end of the 19th century is taken out of its social context to give it a more accessible, contemporary resonance. But because the play hasn’t been re-situated in another specific setting, it feels a bit of a no man’s land.
The three daughters and only son of the late general Sergeyevna pine for escape from their backwater provincial town to the bright lights of Moscow where they were brought up — though their isolation seems rather nebulous here. What does come across strongly though is the sense of wasted potential and unfulfilled dreams.
Like her hit production of Tennessee Williams’s Summer and Smoke at the Almeida last year (which transferred to the West End), Rebecca Frecknall’s direction is stripped-back and intense.
The strongest feature of the show is the performances by the three actresses playing the sisters who interact with the intimacy of those who have always lived together. The oldest, unmarried, pragmatic schoolteacher Olga is played with almost maternal solicitude by Patsy Ferran (who won an Olivier Award in Summer and Smoke). Pearl Chanda strongly conveys Masha’s mercurial temper and sardonic humour. And Ria Zmitrowicz is convincingly naïve as the youngest Irina whose optimism is eventually crushed.
There is strong support from Freddie Meredith as their clever but feckless brother Andrey, Elliott Levey as Masha’s buffoonishly boring teacher husband Fyodor and Peter McDonald as the equally unhappily married lieutenant-colonel Vershinin with whom she falls vainly in love — like almost everyone else, trapped by their own circumstances.
Three Sisters, Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street, N1 1TA. Tickets £10–£42.50, until 1 June 2019.
Last Updated 18 April 2019