Ambika Padki is enchanted by Castle Theatre Company’s production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters.

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

Castle Theatre Company is back to present Chekhov’s Three Sisters in a version by Cordelia Lynn. The play explores the relationships between the siblings and how allegiances shift within those relationships. Masha, Olga and Irina spend their days pining for Moscow, or complaining about the stifling boredom experienced in their provincial backwater. Following their father’s death, the siblings are marooned in a remote Russian garrison town and are coming to terms with the dizzying uncertainty of the future. As the years pass, their spirits are slowly crushed by disappointment and the grind of working life.

The small, intimate nature of City Theatre offers greater intensity, and heightens the actors’ emotions, which allows for the creation of an actor-audience relationship. The venue for the production felt suitable because the actors were in close proximity to the audience, which allowed for the audience to engage with the expressions and characteristics of the actors on stage. Dialogues were powerfully delivered, which only enhanced the intensity of the play.

The cast are a strong unit and make good use of props, from chairs to photo frames to wine glasses. They were appropriate to the theme and the lighting served to enhance the occasional flashes of terror behind the characters’ eyes. Irina, the youngest of the three, played by Helena Baker, yearns the hardest for Moscow. Baker perfectly captures the sense of someone navigating the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Her movements are girlish to begin with – she gets giddy over gifts and spins wistfully during conversations – but gradually she begins to harden, to develop a shell, though she remains resistant to the idea of marrying. Their brother Andrey, played by Etienne Currah, spends much of his time perched above the stage on a shelf. He’s removed from their world and their concerns, yet his choices and recklessness with money directly impact the three sisters.

The play highlights how the three sisters are defined as much by their isolation as their shared longing for Moscow. At times they sit at the foot of the stage as if huddling together for comfort; at other moments they are completely separated on stage to represent the increased strain in the relationships between them. Ruth Louis plays Olga, the oldest and most pragmatic of the three Prozorov sisters. She gives a performance of typical delicacy and warmth, along with that of cynical Masha, played by Poppy James. The pace was not too fast nor too slow, showing the increased tension amidst the relationships as the play progressed.

The delivery of the dialogues was excellent and the movement was effectively used in conveying the characters’ moods. However, I did find that at certain points there was too much movement, which was rather distracting. But for most part, the physicality was used to represent either the closeness or the tension between the actors’ relationships, once again drawing the audience’s attention to the theme of the play. Facial expressions and voice modulation communicated the feelings of the actors very clearly and the fact that the actors really cried on stage evinces that these  actors don’t just perform, but inhabit their roles as if they were a second skin. Three Sisters isn’t a play to be missed.

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

Image: Castle Theatre Company