Grace Brimacombe-Rand introduces us to Cordelia Lynn’s version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters with Castle Theatre Company.

‘Do you ever wonder what would happen if we could live our lives all over again, but be fully conscious of it the second time?’

Chekhov’s Three Sisters, in a version by Cordelia Lynn, tells the timeless story of Olga, Masha and Irina, who feel trapped in their late father’s house in provincial Russia. The play opens with the youngest sister’s name day: Irina’s twentieth birthday brings the family together, only for it to fall apart by the end of the play. Longing for a return to the joy of their youth, these young women fantasise about moving back to the city where they were once happy, Moscow. Desperately reaching to recover what is lost is a feeling that colours the characters in Chekhov’s work; an unrealised dream is at the heart of this family drama, in which the audience sees the reality of marriage, sororal relationships and the goal to ‘keep living’ in a harsh world. Three Sisters was originally written at the beginning of the twentieth century, but feels chillingly relevant to our generation, whose future is so uncertain.

My vision for this production is to highlight human relationships and a consuming sense of decay as the play progresses. With each act occurring a year apart, the strain put on relationships only increases until reaching a breaking point at the end of the play, when the true nature of the characters is revealed to the audience. The cyclical nature of the play allows for deliberate use of mirroring to link characters and romantic relationships with movement and visual motifs. Three Sisters is also full of humour, adding vivacity to the opening acts; with a chilling change of tone this falls away towards the end of the play, allowing us to feel the characters age and change before our eyes.

Lynn’s dialogue make Chekhov feel accessible by inserting references to Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot. This intertextuality heightens a sense of disillusionment and allows Chekhov’s work to feel less daunting as we feel the characters are speaking in an approachable way. The intimacy of the City Theatre is excellent for making Chekhov’s work more intense, with dialogue spoken from the edge of stage or over a soundscape that swells in the audience making this story more immersive. The closing motif of the three sisters looking to their futures, gripping onto one another, will hopefully linger in the minds of audiences and serve as a bold new way of reimagining this classic work.

Three Sisters will play at the City Theatre on 5th, 6th and 7th December at 7:30pm.