Three Sisters, Young Vic, London
Friday 14 September 2012
Heard the one about why God gave women orgasms? “So they’ve got something else to moan about”. It’s not a new a gag, but I’d wager that you’re unlikely to have caught it before in a revival of Chekhov. “What the fuck does that mean?” asks Masha when the disconcerting Solyony airs it in the Young Vic’s new Three Sisters.
Adapted and directed by the strenuously radical Australian auteur Benedict Andrews, this version does not set out to endear itself to traditionalists. It’s performed on a large thrust stage overhung by a light box and composed of rectangular grey tables which, as the characters’ dreams disintegrate, are gradually carted away from under their feet by the bit-part soldiers. You may be torn between thinking this an eloquent symbol of diminished hope and regarding it as an over-protracted look-at-me directorial device that distracts from what is being said.
I felt divided, too, over the show’s entire conception. It is is neither a full-blooded contemporary reworking of Chekhov (as in, say, Janet Suzman’s The Free State which relocates The Cherry Orchard in modern South Africa) nor a thorough-going deconstruction like Filter’s recent bracing meltdown of Three Sisters. Instead, with the deliberate effect of jarring anachronism, it updates the language and the cultural references but it does not revealingly revise the life-expectations of Chekhov’s pre-revolutionary characters or the intimations of impending seismic change.
This creates a weird, dislocated world where they can freak out to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in an elating sequence on the carnival evening but where people are still reckoned to be past it at sixty like Michael Feast’s anarchic drunken doctor in his cheesy bottle-green DJ.
Vanessa Kirby’s strikingly AbFab-ish Masha can moan about the “mindless-fucking-boredom” of married life to a pedantic schoolmaster, without seeming to have heard of divorce. There are tracksuits and tattoos and (when Sam Troughton’s moving Tuzenbach imagines the future) talk of quantum teleportation. Climate change, though, is conveniently forgotten when Vershinin (a faintly absurd, conscious heart-throb in William Houston’s fine portrayal) speculates that “In two or three hundred years, life on earth will be unimaginably beautiful – paradise”.
The production has a jagged energy and a powerful sense of self-conviction, but I sometimes felt that the strong cast – including Mariah Gale as an affecting Olga and the bewitching newcomer Gala Gordon as Irina – were subordinated to the concept, not least when having to toil over a mound of earth even to get on.
To Oct 13; 020 7922 2922
elephant appealPrince William signs up for our charity appeal
elephant appealSo says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
booksWe examine the best titles for teens
scienceResearchers teach border collie to understand sentences using more than 1,000 words
booksA Christmas story in six parts
travelWill high-value tourism help the workshops of this Renaissance city?
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Arts & Ents blogs
Heavy rain and years of 'benign neglect' may have caused Apollo Theatre roof collapse
Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
Justin Bieber isn't retiring from music after all
Nymphomaniac, film review: 'Despite the surreal sex scenes this is a serious drama'
The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
David Cameron takes his biggest gamble yet as he gets tough on Europe over immigration
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
- 1 Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
- 5 Police seize possessions of rough sleepers in crackdown on homelessness
- < Previous
- Next >