3 Winters, National Theatre, review: Clever family drama that encompasses 60 years of Croatian history

It might take a while to warm up, but this show grabs you by the guts

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The Independent Culture

Tena Stivicic, a Croatian living in London, provides a brilliant window on to her country’s history. It’s complicated - both the history, and her storytelling approach.

We follow one family, their mutating attitudes towards Croatian conflicts and changing political systems, from Communism to Capitalism. Scenes leap between 1945, 1990 and 2011; a homecoming, a funeral, a wedding. Thematic richness justified the clever-clever construction.

It’s also the story of a single house - although Tim Hatley’s stunningly nifty design has walls changing with the times too. But property is as political as it is emotional, and decisions about who stays, who goes tear at the moral fibre down the generations.

3 Winters takes a while to warm up, and - unsurprisingly - early scenes are burdened with exposition. But Stivicic pulls off a rare feat: she gives us enough state-of-nation political context to gain dramatic urgency, while not getting bogged down.

She and director Howard Davies also plumb emotional depths. The show may grab you by the guts with tales of war or displays of brutality, but there’s humour in human drama too. The family bickers like hell; it’s funny, believable. Performances are strong, with women leading the story at every turn; particular praise goes to the fractious sisters,Jodie McNee and Sophie Rundle.