Traditionalists seeking enchantment are well advised to steer clear of Benedict Andrew’s ‘Three Sisters’, a gutsy, slap in the face revival of Chekhov’s tale of impassioned, frustrated aspiration amid rural Russia.
Those wary should note that the adaptation, though radical, is sourced from a literal translation, seamlessly fusing familiar lines such as Irina’s lament that her heart is “like a piano that’s been locked away and the key is lost” alongside the less recognisable, “heard the one about why God gave women orgasms?” The three siblings, (excluding Mariah Gale’s marvellous yet unwaveringly staid Olga), are fascinatingly precocious and deplorable, yet little satisfaction can be gained from their inevitable downfall. Rather, the unrestrained decadence of the Nirvana and Bowie bellowing characters of the first act are fantastically juxtaposed in the second as the stage is deconstructed around them, the arena that housed such debauched revelry gradually erased until no more remains.
Understandably, a play stuffed so boldly is unlikely to universally please. The tubby, slovenly ‘Vicky Pollardesque’ Andrey, for example, though unarguably striking, seems, at times, a bit much. However, for a production that provides a simultaneously chilling, compelling and thought provoking three hours, these minor disagreements can easily be forgotten. 4/5