When the Young Vic first advertised its production of Chekov's Three Sisters, I was not very keen. Another depressing drama. Who needs that right now? Benedict Andrew's revival did promise updated language and certainly some pizzazz, but I wasn't sure that was going to make much of a difference.
Then I kept hearing people say how exiting it had been, how fantastic the acting was, and how amazing the set had been. So of course I had to investigate, and truly it was all they said.
Chekov can seem very remote and otherworldly in the wrong hands, but this team of actors was totally convincing. The staging by Johannes Schuetz, initially very perplexing with a grey, bare platform and sky-roof-type lighting, could have been tedious. But it proved to be exiting and totally in touch with the movement and meaning of the play. Even the big heap of earth, reminiscent of Pina Bausch-type productions, made sense in the end.
So we watch those three siblings, orphaned a year earlier, marooned on their country estate, trying to make a life for themselves, trying to live. And they find this difficult, despite their wealth and education. They are left with this incongruous deep yearning for 'something else’ that is so modern. We want...something...but what, exactly?
So the sisters experiment with work as a way of finding life’s purpose. Irina, played by an amazing newcomer named Gala Gordon, pairs languid dreaminess with despairing dissatisfaction in a marriage gone sour. Masha, played by a highly-charged Vanessa Kirby, is loyal service to others. And Olga, played by the touching Maria Gala, finds that nothing works.
These girls are not equipped to deal with life. They have few survival skills, being well brought up girls who are not used to doing much at all, just dreaming of doing. And Moscow is the big dream - all shall be well in Moscow. This is not so unusual nowadays either: young girls dream, only now it's of celebrity and not Moscow.
We have come so far, and yet the dilemmas have not changed much at all. How to live a good life is simply not part of our knowledge base or theirs. So all their dreams (and ours?) disintegrate just as the scenery does, and they are left with just very little indeed. It felt like a very relevant play, produced beautifully and deeply touching. It was also clever, thoughtful, and fun, and we're always up for that!