Three Sisters

Date February 6, 2010 | Map

A night of Chekov in Hammersmith. I like the Lyric Hammersmith, it is a modern theatre with an old-ish feel. With 550 seats, it is already quite big, yet not as big as the prime Westend venues, you are never too far from the stage, ensuring good viewing positions even in the back rows. And the history of the theatre is rather special: a late-19th-century opera house at this location was dismantled and rebuilt inside of a 70s concrete shopping complex. That’s where the old-ish feel comes from: the features are original, and the rebuilding meant that the theatre could be equipped with modern features. Quite an extraordinary development, I think.

Three Sisters Ticket

Three Sisters Ticket

Sean Holmes and Filter were behind tonight’s production of Three Sisters about the Prozorov familiy attempting to improve their lives and leave current frustrations behind. Rather expectedly, given the Lyric’s reputation as a venue for contemporary productions, the production was a modern take on Chekov’s original, which is always a risk. In this case, the risk paid off, though not without casualties.

Filter pride themselves with their “trademark use of sound”. Microphones, placed here and there, amplified the occasional whisper and thus emphasised and drew attention to selected parts. It worked well a couple of times, but occasionally felt gimmicky and inappropriate as well. The sound of a boiling kettle, for example, was interesting to listen to and brought a smile a few faces in the audience, but I thought the complete absence of any action during this one or two minute period made this element more geekish than symbolic or integrated. The rehearsal room style of the stage design, however, worked very well and told the audience at all times that they were witnessing a staged exploration of Chekov instead of wasting effort in an attempt to draw people into a fake fantasy mockup of Russia.

The play itself displayed quite emotional acting, but also gave enough room for Chekov’s quite philosophical discussions of a number of issues. Probably even a bit too much to take in and digest, because the attention was often drawn to Filter’s added modern-ish features and distracted the mind from pondering beyond what was being said. I guess there is no way around reading Chekov to properly engage with the multitude of issues raised.

Anyways, even though I felt some parts dragged on a bit (after all, a runtime of three full hours is much time to be filled), Three Sisters was a good theatre experience, engaging the mind to above-average degrees, both on the level of Chekov’s ideas and the level of the producers’ creativity. I am glad this was included in the Get Into London Theatre scheme of offers.

Guardian Review
Independent Review
Telegraph Review

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