22 January 2015

The Three Sisters at The Cockpit Theatre was slow at times but always engaging

I do like my Chekhov but even I though that going to see The Three Sisters for the third time in eight months might be pushing it a bit. It wasn't.

My evenings was very busy at that time and there were a few plays that I wanted to see but had to miss due to lack of time and having to give priority to other shows. The Three Sisters was pretty high up my priority list and so I decided to see it on a day that I was working in London. Not only did that make the logistics easier but it also gave me a nice walk from Kings Cross to Marylebone, pausing for a coffee and a cereal bar in Marylebone Station.

There was a good, and a young, crowd there but they were not interested in the front row so I was easily able to grab my favourite spot. Once again I had forgotten just how low the seats are there and scared myself slightly as I fell down into my place.

This was a new translation of The Three Sisters, by Agnieszka Kennedy who also played Masha, and kept to the original story, unlike some previous versions that I had seen that had moved Moscow to London or had cut large parts out. This may have been my third Three Sisters n under a year but they had all been different adaptations.

The set was simple and effective. The front of the stage was a sitting room with a dining room at the back slightly raised. Some furniture moved around to make different spaces but this was more or less it.

On to that set poured a large and talented cast. One of the strengths of this version was the way that it made the most of all of the characters, even the lesser ones like the old housemaid who struggled with her many chores without a word of kindness from the family.

I tweeted at the time that to get Three Sisters right you have to get Masha right and @TCThreeSisters at @cockpittheatre did with @AgnieCKennedy sweet in the role, which I still think is fair. Life just happened to the other two sisters but Masha made things happen. It is a moot point as to whose tactics were the most effective in a story where (almost) everybody lost.

Other characters that I particularly liked were their brother Andrey who slipped sullenly into a downtrodden life, his wife Natasha who grew from a timid girl to a dominant woman, and Fyodor who loved his wife Masha desperately despite her actions. The only character I struggled to engage with was Masha's lover Aleksandr who started hesitantly and formally when he first met the family but failed to develop from there despite his relationship with Masha. The lack of passion in that relationship could have been a problem if it were not for all the other good things going on.

My only other minor gripe is that this was a very long play, we finished around 11pm, and while it was always engaging and never boring it did drag a little in the final third leading up to the dramatic endings. I probably felt this more that some there as I knew all too well what those endings were and so I had that sense of expectation that took a while to be fulfilled.

This version of The Three Sisters did what I wanted it to do. Not only was it entertaining but it showed me aspects of the play, particularly regarding the lesser characters, that I had not noticed before. It further stoked my interest in The Three Sisters and made me more likely to see another version when I next get the chance.

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