Preview: Three Sisters, Gate Theatre, London

It's Chekov but not as you know it

Charlotte Cripps
Tuesday 10 June 2008 00:00 BST

Is it ordered chaos or total madness? This unruly interpretation of Chekhov's Three Sisters – winner of the first Gate/Headlong New Directions Award, which celebrates new approaches to classic plays – is Chris Goode's second experiment on a classic text, since his reworking of The Tempest, in 2000, was performed in people's private living rooms at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Goode has dismantled the Chekhov text about the Prozorov family, leaving a basic thread of the original, including all the characters. The six actors will build on those bare bones by improvising a different version of the story each night as they go along. "They can move through those fragments of the original play in pretty much any order that they like," says Goode. "They can be playing any character they want at any time. The actress could be playing Natasha one minute and Masha the next. Often more than one actress is playing Natasha at any one time."

Goode's work has always been inventive. He set up the theatre company Signal to Noise in 1991 in order to break down theatrical barriers, and in 2002 won a Fringe First prize for Kiss of Life, a romantic comedy about a bored young man whose life is transformed by a suicidal stranger. In 2004, Goode followed this with Escapology, about six historical figures trapped in a waiting room, which shifted seamlessly between scripted and improvisational material. The following year he put on Homemade, a play about a first date that was performed in the audience's home; his one-man show, We Must Perform A Quirkafleeg!, was also performed in private residences. His 2006 show Longwave was a black comedy performed without words, featuring two scientists stranded together in a post-apocalyptic world.

"Everybody recognises the potential for chaos in ...Sisters," says Goode. "All the time they are trying to make fresh choices that create meaningful encounters between the characters but that at the same time create something new that might grow out of an improvised moment."

To 5 July (020-7229 0706)

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