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Review: Three Sisters

This modern re-imagining of classic Chekhov hits the mark


Three Sisters is a modern adaptation of Chekhov's play of the same name, re-presented for the 21st Century by writer Anya Reiss. The version now showing at the Southwark Playhouse opened earlier this month, and really is an absolute pleasure.

Embracing the original themes, the story focuses on three sisters, Olga (Sugar Rush's Olivia Hallinan), Masha (Emily Taaffe), and Irina (Holliday Grainger), who are growing up near a British Embassy, holding together a private home bought by their late father. Each long to return to London, and each are in varying states of happiness. Olga, a teacher, lined up for the position of headmistress, despite her lacking desire; Masha, a sulking, disinterested individual; and Irina, a rather wonderfully spirited and hopeful young woman, longing for an exciting future. Their brother, Andrey (Thom Tuck), is a student, managing the remaining house funds.

Throughout the course of the play, the siblings develop and grow, dealing with the frustrations of love, lust and life away from home, but who escapes, and who survives?

You'll notice a range of familiar faces, including Joe Syms (the fit one from Broadchurch), Paul McGann (the fit one from a lot of things), and Michael Garner (that one off London's Burning). Emily Dobbs in the role of Natasha (the new wife of Andrey) provides some welcome light relief, and David Carlyle as Irina's love interest Tusenbach, offers an tender and heartfelt performance throughout. The real take away is Holliday Grainger, whose performance is glistening throughout, simultaneously realistic and warming, heartbreaking and strong (not to mention, she's absolutely gorgeous, perhaps enough so to turn a gay). Reiss's rewriting of Irina is wonderfully identifiable for modern audiences, and Grainger provides the soul within.

You don't need to know the ins and outs of Chekhov to appreciate that Three Sisters is a modern day story that every one of us can identify with, thanks to this wonderful adaptation. At its core, the play tells a story of the want for love, stability, and happiness, and the fear of the future, the unknown, and failure. It's as much about keeping it together, as it is about falling apart - a 21st Century concern for us all.

You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll be on the edge of your seat as the story unravels (if, of course, you're not au fait with the Chekhov original). An absolute must-see when in London, for the rest of the month, up until 3rd May.

GT gives this: 5/5

Words: David Cummins

Three Sisters is at the Southwark Playhouse, London, until 3 May 2014. For more information and to book tickets, head over to the Southwark Playhouse website.

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