Jack Studio Theatre – until 14 April 2018. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
This is another impressive Arrows & Traps production – an engaging, atmospheric and intelligent adaptation of Chekhov’s classic.
In a provincial garrison town one year after their father’s death, the Prozorov sisters dream of returning to Moscow. Priding themselves on their cultured and educated upbringing in Moscow, the sisters’ scathing and snobbish attitude to the locals is demonstrated most acutely by their treatment of their brother Andrei’s sweetheart Natasha at the beginning of the play.
The sisters never get to Moscow, instead the city becomes a beacon of hope for a new life of fulfilment, freedom and happiness to each of the sisters as their dreams stagnate over the years. Eldest sister Olga (the always impressive Cornelia Baumann) is gradually squeezed out of running the Prozorov household by Natasha after her marriage to Andrei, middle sister Masha (Claire Bowman, in a passionate performance) is unhappily married to local schoolteacher Kulygin (the wonderful Stephen MacNeice – just watch his eyes when he is insisting that he’s a happy man) but begins an affair with dashing officer Vershinin (Toby Wynn-Davies), and youngest sister Irina (luminous Victoria Llewellyn) looking for meaning in her life through work, but longing to find her true love in Moscow, is courted by two very different officers.
Ross McGregor brings the humour of Chekhov’s story to the forefront, so it’s not all doom and gloom, and there are some lovely musical flourishes, including a singalong guaranteed to get your feet tapping. The different philosophical attitudes of the characters are treated with respect, from Vershinin’s hope that small acts will eventually lead to social change to Chebutykin’s nihilism, and their musings aren’t allowed to become too preachy, thanks to McGregor’s dynamic direction.