“Free Tomorrow, Free the Next Day”

15/10/2010 at 7:24 pm Leave a comment

Three Sisters

presented by Cry Havoc, at ATYP Studio 1, October, 2010

This solid rendition of Anton Chekhov’s ode to domesticity varies in light and shadow, switching between forms deftly as the eponymous women edge closer and closer to the abyss. Such creeping existential angst as this cannot be taken frivolously, but somehow within the dense dialogue and philosophy we are left with a wry smile to take home along with an abject lesson in seizing the day. The cast are superb, bringing the difficult emotional truths of their parts to the front – and despite the small-town setting it is a front. these people are fighting for their lives. It’s a battle that rages within the soul, the opposing forces: reason, love, loyalty and vice. And this production takes no prisoners.

At the core of the play is the paradox of choice. Terrible thing, this free will that we are granted, especially since our wants and needs are so often at odds with each other. Desire is tempered by compromise and a gradual acceptance that what dreams may come will often have a pricetag attached that can be cruelly prohibitive. Chekhov’s not messing around, themes of destiny, imagination and love take priority amid the day-to-day. With each sister’s journey comes something just out of reach, and the burning question comes with a sting in its tail: is it their choices that have left such potential unfulfilled? Or is it circumstance that betrays them? It’s not an easy one to answer; Olga, Masha and Irina are all intelligent and capable women, it should be a cinch to get to Moscow, right? But with compassion comes a kind liability. I cannot say whether their choices are for the better or for the worse, but that’s not the point – this is theatre that is asking questions, not giving answers.

The staging is uncomplicated and clean, letting the realism and comic dialogue flourish in a friends-and-family portrait of colour and light. This is counterpointed with sly moments of expressionism and measured physical theatre between scenes, with a looming but understated sound design featuring original music from co-producers Jai Courtney and James Mackay (who also broods magnificently in the role of Andrei). For the record: I’m not in the habit of featuring actors in theatre responses as I believe it detracts from the work they do to adopt the personas of character – and no more so is this relevant here, the cast are all stand-out, a riveting ensemble. You couldn’t pick whose story carries more weight. To mention one actor is to mention them all, and looking through the program, the clarity of the team ethos behind Three Sisters is striking.

Very few kitchen sink dramas will keep me enthralled but Chekhov is a special case, and done well, it’s realism at its finest. I really liked the modernisation of this text, from multiple translations and peppered with cheeky pop references or the occasional ‘extra line’. Far be it for me to say whether the master can be improved by judicious add-ons to the script but if it works? It certainly doesn’t detract from the searing, mountainous aphorisms (to paraphrase Nietzsche’s Zarathrustra) that lie between the moments of domestic business in the Prozorov household. That business which comes into its own – between the lines – anything to stave off the paralysing ennui that is the writer’s signature in twentieth century drama. These details are auspiciously addressed in the little things, the comic moments, precise tableaus and visual cues within the framework of tight realism.

Director Kate Revz and the creative team have put together a thoughtful, balanced and ultimately uplifting production of a very difficult text, one that echoes to my existence: as I look around and make my own day-to-day affairs, I cannot help but reflect on the stories of three sisters (and one brother) who somehow settle for something distinctly unsettling. Also I can’t get that song out of my head. You know the one I mean. Recommended.

Three Sisters plays at ATYP Studio 1 ‘Under The Wharf’ until November 6. Featuring Georgia Adamson, Celeste Dodwell, Duncan Fellows , Anthony Gooley, James Mackay, Diana McLean, Megan O’Connell, Kelly Paterniti, Mark Pound, Berynn Schwerdt and John Turnbull

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Entry filed under: Inside Theatre REVIEWS, Sydney THEATRE. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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VICTOR SANCZ vassanc [AT] gmail.com

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