Aside from the length of this three-hour play, what is striking about the Almeida’s Three Sisters, written in 1901 by Anton Chekhov and audaciously revised by Cordelia Lynn, is the youth of the three protagonists. Chekhov did in fact cast the sisters in their twenties. Irina (Ria Zmitrowicz) only just twenty and indignant about being treated as pet child, Masha (Pearl Chanda) twenty-three, already married and regretting her impetuous choice and Olga (Patsy Ferran) their elder sister, a stately twenty-eight, motherly and resigned to her lot. Indeed, Zmitrowicz, Chanda and Ferran give a youthful charge to Rebecca Frecknall’s production that isn’t typical of a perennial classic.
By Anton Chekhov
In a version by Cordelia Lynn
Directed by Rebecca Frecknall
Cast: Ria Zmitrowicz, Pearl Chanda, Patsy Ferran
Photographs: Marc Brenner
6 April – 1 June
“Pathos and futility are cleverly brought to the stage by a passionate cast under Rebecca Frecknall’s direction.”
At times the hyper despair and repeated longing to leave the dull provinces for Moscow is waring and exacerbated by Lynn’s adaptation of the script using contemporary English with plenty of rising inflection (uptalk) from the women and expletives all round. The battalion stationed locally - who are eventually redeployed - is also mostly comprised of young men and they charge about and leap on and off the stage with as much youthful melodrama as the sisters and their prodigal but doomed brother Andrey (Freddie Meredith). To be fair, the incessant wretchedness of Cherbutykin (Alan Williams) - the older doctor and family friend who bemoans quite understandably about drinking his life away – is just as intense. And of course, Masha’s mature love interest “the love sick major” (Peter McDonald) is full of desolation, despite Chekhov’s attempts to pepper his monologues with hope for future generations. The contrast of the older men, who have experienced so much more of life and its limitations, highlights the young sister’s despair in not being able to effect change.
The pathos and futility are cleverly brought to the stage by a passionate cast under Rebecca Frecknall’s direction. And it must be added, Cordelia Lynn doesn’t neglect Chekhov’s wit and worldly insight into this version of the ever brilliant Three Sisters.