By April Howard
The intimate venue of City Theatre provides just the right amount of claustrophobia and proximity for a play about feeling trapped. The opening moment is well-choreographed and powerful. ‘Three sisters’ is a play about three sisters who long for the exciting city-life of Moscow that they remember in their childhood as they feel restless and trapped in the house of their late father in provincial Russia. As their optimism and sense of happiness fades and things spiral out of control, the play asks us big questions about life, death and autonomy.
Some members of the cast are incredibly watchable. Auguste Voulton plays Ivan artfully, easily able to capture the older man, and providing both moments of great comedy and of great tragedy with expertise. Voulton is clearly an incredibly impressive actor. Poppy James’ Masha carries the emotions of the play well, being the clearest indicator of the dichotomy of tone between Act 1 and Act 2. James is a talented actress, performing emotional climaxes as well as moments of mundanity and joy with ease. Ruth Louis makes an excellent Olga, an actress with exceptional skill. Daisy Hargreaves is the perfect fit for Anfisa, she embodies old age and her kind-hearted, hardworking spirit very impressively. Etienne Currah plays the intelligent, discontent Andrey and is a good fit for the role, understanding the character well. Aaron Rozanski has moments of greatness in the powerful speeches of Alexander and in his departure in the final act. Sammy French is also a very good talent who makes a brilliant Vasily. Lucy Little plays Natasha incredibly well, playing her character in accordance with the tone at that point of the play, evoking sympathy when Natasha demands sympathy and evoking irritation when she annoys the other characters.
While all the cast are clearly talented, some (as aforementioned) stand out as impressive talents more than others. Helena Baker clearly has potential and fits Irina well, but it would be good to see her embody the character more wholly and reflect the different emotions of the play more. Other members of the cast are all clearly talented but do not necessarily perform their roles as strikingly as Voulton, James, Louis and Hargreaves, meaning their performances are slightly less impressive and watchable alongside these talents, making the dynamic slightly warped. This variation in performance is not only seen between actors but also between different moments for each actor, which does slightly distract from the overwhelming emotion of the play, but indeed it is still intensely engaging and no cast member is by any means untalented.
The technical director Emma Ferguson ought to be applauded. The use of music and sounds in the production are perfect, creating just the right mood and the lighting always echoes the moment. I would also applaud the Director Grace Brimacombe- Rand and Assistant Director Alexander Cohen for their use of positions and their clearly conscientious and well- informed direction. They make sure the space is used to its full potential and have clearly thought of every aspect of the play, understanding its value and meaning as a great piece of drama.
I would however say that the moments performed sat on the edge of the stage may be too close to be comfortable for the first row, taking the claustrophobia too far, except for in the opening of Act 2 where Masha is sat distressed on edge of stage as this worked well. I also believe a change of the setting more noticeably between the first and second acts would have made the sense of decay and hopelessness clearer to the audience.
I would recommend you see this intense and moving production, fuelled by the talent of its cast as well as its directors and production team. CTC’s production of ‘Three Sisters’ is a fitting tribute to Chekhov’s writing and its new-found relevance in a world of eco-anxiety and chaos.
Image Credit: CTC