When the world doesn’t seem be working out the way you expect, you can’t beat a bit of Chekhov to put things in perspective.
Anyone of a like mind should consider heading to north London for this delightful new version of Three Sisters by Cordelia Lynn.
The original story of the Prozorov siblings, stuck in a provincial Russian town dreaming of a life in Moscow, is very much intact, but the language – with added swearing and even a TS Eliot quote – sparkles and zings for a 21st century audience.
Director Rebecca Frecknall places her characters carefully around (and sometimes just off) the stage as if pieces in some magnificent chess game.
This play reunites Frecknall with Patsy Ferran, who recently won the best actress Olivier award for their previous project Summer and Smoke.
That play, which also won for best revival, ended up in the West End after starting out at the Almeida. I’d be surprised if Three Sisters didn’t follow the same trajectory.
Ferran is as magnetic as ever as Olga, the eldest of the sisters. It’s a shame she doesn’t get more stage time.
She’s joined by Pearl Chanda as the wonderfully moody Masha, while Ria Zmitrowicz is excellent as the youngest, Irina, who we see start out so full of youth and promise only to see it crushed out of her as the acts progress.
In one of the play’s best scenes, Chanda heartbreakingly portrays Masha’s despair at the departure of Vershinin (Peter McDonald), the married soldier she loves, while her foolish husband Kulygin (Elliott Levey) goofs about in complete denial.
The set is simple but effective. I like to think that the single piano on stage was one of the many that appeared in Summer and Smoke.
My first experience of Chekhov was seeing Three Sisters at the Barbican in the late 1980s with Harriet Walter as Masha. I fell in love then with the dramatist’s unhappy, frustrated world.
This version is every bit as good. It blew my Chekhovian socks off. Forget Moscow. We must go to Islington.
Three Sisters is at the Almeida Theatre until 1 June