3 Sisters on Hope Street, Everyman, Liverpool


Chekhov sisters cry over their matzo

For Olga, Masha, and Irina, read Gertie, May and Rita. Chekhov's three young women and brother Andrei (here Arnold), as portrayed in Three Sisters, have been uprooted in more than the usual sense. The first theatre production by Liverpool's Everyman and Playhouse company for the city's European Capital of Culture year, co-commissioned with Hampstead Theatre, 3 Sisters on Hope Street takes a European classic, shakes it up and gives it a distinct Liverpudlian slant.

Marketed as "an inventive reimagining", this substantial reworking of Chekhov's original was co-written by the Liverpool writer Diane Samuels, among whose plays is the poignant Kindertransport, and by Tracy-Ann Oberman, best known for her role as Chrissie Watts in EastEnders. They have set the action in a tight-knit Jewish community in 1946, in the very street that houses the Everyman theatre, an artery linking several well-known landmarks as well as the roads leading to the Mersey, once a major departure route for those seeking new lives in the New World.

And so it is for New York, not Moscow, that the three sisters yearn. Their mundane lives are enlivened not by members of the Imperial Army but by Jewish GIs from the American air base at nearby Burtonwood, whose presence in the Lasky (Chekhov's Prozorov) household offers a window beyond their claustrophobic surroundings of shabby gentility.

The director, Lindsay Posner, has created an absorbing evening out of a bizarre blend of material. Take a Chekhovian structure, drench it in Liverpool references, liberally sprinkle it with Jewish humour and sayings, and you have, as Oberman put it, "a kind of Three Sisters via Woody Allen". Political and historical references are updated, so that the anti-Jewish riots in Liverpool in 1947 replace the third-act fire in the original play. Listening to the broadcast of the Grand National from Aintree, on which everyone has a flutter, becomes a bone of contention between the family and Arnold's mouthy, Liverpool-born-and-bred wife, Debbie (Natasha). When Arnold's dwindling funds force him to remortgage the family's house, it is to Debbie's butcher dad that he becomes in debt. And Dr "Nate" Weinberg (Chebutykin), the Lasky family's lodger, is dismayed at the arrival of an NHS that will turn doctors into civil servants. In Chekhov's original, two men duel over Rita; here it is a bare-knuckle fight.

The spinster Gertie (Anna Francolini), the eldest sister, is the least changed from Chekhov. May, the married middle sister, is as feisty as Masha, strumming out her frustration in loud bursts of Gershwin at the grand piano. Suzan Sylvester paces her performance beautifully until, her dream destroyed, her whole body contorts as if crushed in agony. The youngest, Rita (engagingly played by Samantha Robinson), becomes interested in the Zionist movement; encouraged by her American air-force clerk, Tush (Tuzenbach), Rita determines to go away and fight for the promised homeland. All convey the impression of restless, inquisitive young women trapped in their past, confined by their impoverished circumstances and apprehensive of a rapidly changing world.

On Ruari Murchison's wonderfully evocative period set, events unfold slowly and fascinatingly. The unashamedly manipulative Debbie (a compelling performance from Daisy Lewis) drags Arnold down from his academic tower to the drudgery of fatherhood and local politics, while she enjoys "car rides" with Councillor O'Donnell. The shadowy Solly has been altered by the unspeakable things he witnessed at Dachau; the flight commander Vince (Vershinin) comes across less as a philosopher and more as a romantic.

Elliot Levey presents a tediously boring yet funny deputy headmaster, Mordy; Philip Voss offers solid support as Nate; and Ben Caplan makes a tragic Arnold, a pathetic shell of his former promising self nagged into numb submission by his flinty wife. It's an intriguing evening, with some rich portraits, even if the allusions and humour aren't yet quite as clearly presented as they surely will be in time.

T o 16 February (0151-709 4776), then transferring to Hampstead Theatre, London NW3 (020-7722 9301) from 21 February

Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea


In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops


Arts and Entertainment
Full circle: Wu-Tang’s Method Man Getty

Music review

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game