THREE SISTERS: AFTER CHEKHOV – Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol


1*

12 June 2018

A bust of William Shakespeare wearing round Chekhovian spectacles is suckled at the breast of a young woman. So Rash Dash Theatre’s take on The Three Sisters comes shouting and screaming to its climax. Anyone expecting a conventional production of Chekhov’s 1900 classic – and I am quite sure there were some in the audience – would have seen the notices outside the theatre warning of the use of haze, loud music, total blackouts and nakedness and on entry to the auditorium, a drum kit, a bath, a chandelier hanging to the floor and realised it would not be.

Rash Dash’s website sets out the values of the Company; a list of statements such as ‘We will re-evaluate the Feminine’, ‘We will play with Artform, Form and Space’ and ‘We are performers working from the inside out’. In taking the original play and stripping it back to various themes the trio explore them with references to modern day by means of dialogue, monologue, song and movement punctuated by various costume changes and music.

Chekhov always explored multiple themes in his plays and amongst those which are debated on stage here are isolation, the female, happiness, love, time and the male influence over women; all of which are picked up and thrown around, quite literally in the case of ‘time’.

There is no doubting the intent of the Company to take a hatchet to conventional theatre and theatrical works; to honour and dishonour them at the same time. The energy of Helen Goalen, Abbi Greenland and Becky Wilkie is impressive and their excellent musicianship is undeniable, as is that of the accompanying performers Chloe Rianna on drums and Yoon-Ji Kim on violin and Korg synthesizer.

Interesting and challenging though the production was I felt completely disengaged from it. The packed auditorium appeared to cackle along with the onstage antics with abandon, but I often wondered what on earth it was that they found funny. I couldn’t raise a smile. Somehow I just felt that a potentially good idea had developed into a mishmash of sketches, sewn together with musical interlude and a variety of protest songs all seasoned with a healthy dollop of pretension.

‘Chekhov is the patron saint of disappointment’ says one character, rather reflecting my mood at the end of the performance.

I loathed it.


CAST & CREATIVES

OLGA – HELEN GOALEN

MASHA – ABBI GREENLAND

IRENA – BECKY WILKIE

DRUMS – CHLOE RIANNA

VIOLIN & SYNTH – YOON-JI KIM

DESIGN – ROSIE ELNILE

LIGHTING – ZIGGY JACOBS

DRAMATURGE – JUDE CHRISTIAN

PRODUCER – AMY LETMAN

STAGE MANAGER – SIMON PERKINS

SOUND ENGINEERING & LIVE MIXING – ELEANOR THEODOROU

A RASH DASH & ROYAL EXCHANGE THEATRE CO-PRODUCTION

COMMISSIONED BY TOBACCO FACTORY THEATRES, THE YARD THEATRE, CAMBRIDGE JUNCTION, MAYK AND BRISTOL OLD VIC

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