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Three Sisters, Southwark Playhouse, theatre review

Update feels like a cosmetic rather than a radical makeover

Chekhov's three sisters languish in a remote garrison town seven hundred miles from Moscow. Anya Reiss's new version relocates the play in 2014 in the ex-pat community around the British Embassy in a Middle Eastern country (possibly the Yemen).

Played, in Russell Bolam's strongly cast production, with a lovely, edgy but intimate rapport by Olivia Hallinan, Emily Taaffe and Holliday Granger, the siblings pine for London.

The idea is that they have been left financially stranded by their deceased father.  In the age of the internet and easy divorce, it's hard to believe, though, that three such bright, attractive women would have become so cut off and stuck. 

Paul McGann is compelling as an unusually sober-minded Vershinin, but, given what we know about global warming and planetary decline, how could any rational person now believe that every generation is “getting a little bit closer to beauty”? 

Bolam's fine ensemble skilfully negotiate the shifts of mood and there are some good pointed jokes (tor example, the tipsy karaoke version of “Common People” that becomes a snooty riposte to the vulgar Natasha). 

But, as opposed to Filter Company's recent deconstruction of the play and the consciously glaring anachronisms of the Benedict Andrews' version, this update feels like a cosmetic rather than a radical makeover.

To May 3; 020 7407 0234