Left – Ksenja Logos, Kate Cheel and Carmel Johnson. Cover – Peter O’Brien and Ksenja Logos. Photos – Matt Nettheim
Inspired by the plight of the Brontë sisters, Anton Chekhov’s play Three Sisters is about the decay of the privileged class and the search for significance.
Like the three Yorkshire novelists, the Prozorov sisters consider their brother to be a genius with many talents. They are also disillusioned with provinciality and long for a better life in Moscow. A year after the death of their father, and eleven years after leaving the capital city, orphans, Olga, Masha and Irina find existence monotonous and more and more fruitless in the Russian provinces. Only the proximity of an adjacent military barracks and the companionship of its officers makes their existence tolerable. The play opens on May 5th, the first anniversary of their father’s death and Irina’s twentieth birthday. The wonderful set is a poetic ruin of a stately home with decaying walls and sand piles scattered across the ground floor. Here, director Adam Cook uses metaphor upon metaphor in his presentation and what emerges is an arduous, exceedingly cherished, production. Although, his approach seems appropriate it leads to, at best, enigmatic performances from the cast. Ultimately, the consequence is a lacklustre, high-browed soap opera.
For all its high-mindedness, the production is frustratingly uneven as the actors visibly switch from inane melodrama to philosophising about life, the future, love and the idiotic pursuit of happiness. This itself becomes tiresome, strained and surprisingly passé. It’s not that State Theatre Company of South Australia has fashioned something dire. But neither is it sufficient enough to be considered first-rate. The characterisations are at times lifeless and even Peter O’Brien seems incongruously restrained as Vershinin. Kate Cheel – her wigs are atrocious – plays Irina as a giddy schoolgirl, Carmel Johnson is aptly matriarchal as Olga and Ksenja Logos simpers and fleers non-stop as Masha. Between the acting, directing and some nice lighting by Gavan Swift and lovely costumes by Ailsa Paterson, the piece just about works. But it’s never quite as satisfying as it should be. Chekhov’s play is about lost people and this production loses something in the translation but still remains respectful and respectable, but no great shakes as a theatrical experience.
State Theatre Company of South Australia
by Anton Chekhov
Director Adam Cook
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre
Dates: 5 - 28 August 2011
Tickets: $49 (Adults), $42 (Concession), $29 (Under 30)
Bookings: BASS 131 246 | www.bass.net.au | www.statetheatrecompany.com.au