by Anton Chekhov.
Wyndhams Theatre Charing Cross Road WC2H 0DA In rep to 3 May 2014.
7.30pm 25, 29, 30 April, 3 May.
2.30pm 26 April, 1 May.
Runs 3hr 15min one interval.
TICKETS: 0844 482 5120.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 April.
Finely-tuned figures in a Russian landscape.
Should we look to Russian companies, like Moscow’s Mossovet State Academic Theatre, currently performing two Anton Chekhov’s plays at Wyndhams, for something ‘authentic’?
Yes and no, probably – as the world might look for Shakespearean ‘authenticity’ to the Royal Shakespeare Company. There’s a national tradition and temperament, but also a familiarity that encourages departures from traditional playing.
This Three Sisters certainly becomes intense, but begins with surprising lightness, while establishing a dislocation through a device running through the earlier acts; a shrill bell ringing to an empty room, giving a sense of invasion that’s developed later in the emergency of the town fire and the army marching away.
The balance of family life has already been disturbed. As in its London repertoire companion, Uncle Vanya, the action is overshadowed by a family death. Director Andrei Konhalovsky plugs in past and future, one through a wraith-like figure seen by drunk old doctor Chebutykin, and presumably a vision of the sisters’ late mother, whom he loved. Chebutykin is picked out, observing the action, in solo spotlights throughout.
What’s to come is clumsily handled. As the sisters look ahead, more in agony than hope, there is film of military marching; they might not get to Moscow, but the Germans did reach Leningrad.
Meanwhile, back in the present, the prophetic speculations of the mature Vershinin contrast Tuzenbakh’s more excitable prognostications. Andrei seems quite happily married at first, but develops a corpulent complacency as his hopes fade, while his wife Natalia behaves entirely reasonably according to her home-and-family values. She might order the old servant Anfisa not to sit in her presence, but only when she finally notices and it is not said with deliberate unkindness. Anyway, Anfisa takes no notice, sitting on.
An imposing figure, Masha’s unloved husband Kulygin is another family outsider seen favourably, the joke mask he’s confiscated from a pupil brought with well-intentioned clumsiness to cheer his wife as her lover departs.
Nothing, though, disguises the way life gnaws at these once-hopeful women. Three fine central performances show how sudden troubles and daily routines eat at – though never destroy – the soul.
Andrei Prozorov: Alexey Grishin.
Natalia Ivanovna: Natalia Vdovina.
Olga: Larisa Kuznetsova.
Masha: Yulia Vysotskaya.
Irina: Galina Bob.
Fyodor Ilyich Kulygin: Alexander Bobrovsky.
Alexander Vershinin: Alexander Domogarov.
Nikolay Tuzenbakh:Pavel Derevyanko.
Vasily Soleny: Vitaly Kishchenko.
Ivan Chebutykin: Vladas Bagdonas/Alexander Filippenko.
Alexey Fedotik: Vladislav Bokovin.
Vladimir Rode: Evgeny Ratkov.
Ferapont: Vladimir Goryushin.
Anfisa: Irina Kartasheva.
Flashback: Ramune Khodorkaite.
Maid: Elena Lobanova.
Orderly: Alexander Pavlov.
Director/Designer: Andrei Konchalovsky.
Scenic Designer: Lyubov Skorina.
Lighting: Andrey Izotov.
Costume: Rustam Khamdamov.
Assistant movement: Ramune Khodorkaite.