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Review Round-up: Young Vic's radical new Three Sisters

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Chekhov's Three Sisters, starring Mariah Gale, Vanessa Kirby and Gala Gordon as the eponymous siblings, opened to press last night (13 September 2012, previews from 5 September) at the Young Vic Theatre.

The radical production aims to “breathe fresh life” into the popular 1901 play, which centres on four siblings left stranded in a provincial backwater following the death of their father.

Directed by Benedict Andrews, it continues until 13 October.

Michael Coveney

By relocating Chekhov in the modern world, director Benedict Andrews, in one of the most thrilling and refreshing productions of a Chekhov play I have ever seen, adds an ironic poignancy to the familiar sense of anomie and frustration... Physical dislocation goes in hand with emotional torpor, and a superb cast, led by Mariah Gale as a forceful, stoical Olga and William Houston as the passionate "lovesick" major Vershinin (his second great Chekhov turn of the year, following Astrov at the Print Room), is liberated into a stunning new Anglo-Russian performance style ...underpinned by Aussie Andrews' lively, slangy text.  Michael Feast as the decrepit doctor (is) hilarious and terrifying without any of that tedious old boy "drunken" acting we usually get... (it is) right up there with the best ever Three Sisters.

Dominic Maxwell
The Times

I’d call it more a wrongheaded nobbling than a bold reimagining... a crying shame, not least because the director, Benedict Andrews, has assembled such a cracking cast... But too often they retain your interest despite their director’s innovations rather than because of them... this is a mish-mash. There’s no firm sense of the house, of physical reality. So these wonderful speeches and exchanges don’t resonate, because we’re nowhere. We get overwhelmed by jokes, anachronisms, the details, and the story suffers. Even so, they get away with it, just about... The lines are there, the acting’s there, the context is not. The show is gimmicky not revolutionary, because Andrews doesn’t give the sisters a home to lose, a home to be stifled by, a place to belong to or to chafe against.

Michael Billington


…For all its strangeness, I found Andrews' production true to the spirit of Chekhov's great play and, in the end, profoundly moving. Shocks and surprises come early. Designer Johannes Schütz strips the Prozorovs' provincial household down to a bare platform backed by a mound of earth…Andrews's production catches perfectly the Prozorov sisters' yearning for escape and Chekhov's portrait of the need for endurance in the face of dashed hopes…This is Chekhov refreshed and reimagined – and acted with total lack of inhibition…Something of the play's everyday realism may be sacrificed, but this is a production that gets to the drama's heart and made me realise, all over again, why I love Chekhov.

Matt Trueman
Time Out

…His retelling of the melancholic story of Olya, Masha and Irina - the trio of provinical spinsters who dream of escape to the big city - is so blunt that, by the end, it borders on Beckett...Andrews, who directed Big and Small with Cate Blanchett in April, habitually explodes classic texts…The contrast is turned up, but Chekhov's play remains intact, its existential clout maxed out disturbingly. It's further proof, too, of how deliciously Continental-style design/direction and good old British acting combine. In a super cast given licence to shine, Vanessa Kirby stands out as Masha, moving from diva to devastation, with Houston, Michael Feast (Chebutykin) and Danny Kirane (Andrey) also on top, top form.

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard

…Kirby is adept at suggesting Masha’s ennui, and Gordon has a darting energy, but the strongest contribution comes from Gale, conveying Olga’s soulfulness as well as a spinsterish resentment. Andrews elicits equally cogent work from Danny Kirrane as the three women’s financially reckless brother, Sam Troughton as Irina’s admirer Tuzenbach, and William Houston as the bruised and philosophical Colonel Vershinin…There are some defiantly weird touches...The set is slowly dismantled, too, to suggest the fabric of their society being ravaged. If you like your Chekhov done in an orthodox style, this isn’t for you. Andrews has come up with a bracingly original vision: he turns the play inside out, bashes it around, and drops in anachronisms, yet his approach yields revelatory results. In the end, against the odds, this is a moving and absorbing Three Sisters.


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