Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW REVIEW: Sport For Jove's THREE SISTERS Reinterprets The Classic For Modern Ears Whilst Retaining Chekhov's Original Intent

Saturday 30th July 2016, 7pm, Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre

Sport for Jove's THREE SISTERS gives contemporary audiences an insight into the not so perfect life of the aristocracy in turn of the century Russia. Director Kevin Jackson has teamed with script translator Karen Vickery to provide a new translation of the Anton Chekhov classic whilst presenting as faithful interpretation of the original script as possible.

For those less familiar with the work, THREE SISTERS centres on the Sergeyevna sisters, Olga (Janine Watson), Marya (Paige Gardiner) and Irina (Zoe Jensen), and to a lesser extent, their brother Andrey Sergeyevich Prozorov (Tom Campbell). Olga, Irina and Andrey all occupy the family home in a provincial Russian town, currently occupied by the military and sister Marya (also known as Masha), the only married sibling, often visits. Set in a Tsarist Russia, the family are well educated and have grown up as aristocracy, children of a military officer, before finding themselves relocated to the small town some years prior to the start of the story. As the sisters entertain the officers on Irina's "name day" it unfolds that they long to return to Moscow, tired of the lack of sophistication, society and culture of their current home town. All are dissatisfied with their lives from Olga, tired and overworked as a teacher; Masha, stuck in an unhappy marriage; Irina, who wants a purpose in life and wants to work; and Andrey who should have become a scholar but has become a recluse in his room when not romancing a common village girl that his sisters do not like. As with other Chekhov works, the story also includes servants, family friends, social misfits and love interests to provide an insight into Russian society and culture of the times.

Paige Gardiner as Marya Sergeyevna and Lyn Pierse as Anfisa (Photo: supplied)

Whilst other productions have sought to interpret and reset the work, Jackson has opted to remain as true to Chekhov's original work, keeping the setting in early 20th Century rural Russia. Set Designer Georgia Hopkins, assisted by Angelika Nieweglowski, has created a detailed sitting room for the first two acts. Persian carpets cover the floor which is filled with a number of 'spaces', from the 10 seat table, loveseat and wing back chairs around a coffee table, more secluded armchairs and table, desk filled with books and piano adorned with photographs. Martin Kinnane (lighting design) has a 'sunlight' streaming in a window to which Irina has pulled over a chair to bask in the warmth and flowers adorn the tables as refreshments are laid out on the table. The furniture is a mix of items, all showing age and wear.

Lauren Richardson as Natalya Ivanovna, Zoe Jensen (seated) as Irina Sergeyevna, Janine Watson as Olga Sergeyevna and Paige Gardiner as Marya Sergeyevna (Photo: Supplied)

Costume designer Emma Vine, assisted by HAnna Smith, has ensured that Chekov's specification for costumes have been adhered to, specifically Olga's blue dress and Masha's black mourning dress. The women's stylings of long skirts, corseted bodices and high necklines are based on late 1800's, early 1900's fashion. The sisters, comfortable about their 'station' are kept conservative in solid colours and simple adornment whilst the social climbing Natalya Ivanovna (Lauren Richardson) is in more 'modern' showy colours with flounces and fripperies. Reclusive, henpecked Andrey is in simple attire, in contrast to the military regalia of the visiting officers and also showing the difference between his simplicity and the greed of his future wife.

Zoe Jensen as Irina Sergeyevna and Graeme McRae as Nikolai Lvovich Tuzenbach (Photo: Supplied)

As Vickery's translation sought to translate Chekhov's into an English for "our contemporary Australian ears", Jackson has also opted to present the work in Australian accents although for some characters it does wander into British and American at points. Jackson's desire for the syntax of the text to remain consistent with the original also makes for some odd speech patterns when translated to English which results in the impression of over-dramatization which can't be purely attributed to the performer. In keeping with the realism of the work, Jackson also layers conversations across the room, particularly when characters start philosophising, partly to their 'listener' and partly to themselves which can prove a little distracting and disconcerting.

Lyn Pierse as Anfisa, Justin Stewart-Cotta as Aleksandr Ignatyevitch Vershinin and beggers (Photo: Supplied)

Of the sisters, Janine Watson stands out as the most 'real' characterisation as the initial "Lady of the House" and the maternal figure now that the siblings parents have passed. Her expression of the building emotion and anger as she sees her brother gamble away the family fortune and submit to his unforgiving wife is realistic as is the compassion she expresses for octogenarian servant Anfisa (Lyn Pierse). Paige Gardiner gives the changeable Marya a disinterest and distain for pretty much everything around her, from the lacklustre party to the loveless marriage, and contrasts it with the eagerness to be swept up in Vershinin's philosophising. Zoe Jensen gives the young, happier Irina an absurdity as the daughter of aristocracy, who lazes her day away decides she wants to work, then proceeds to moan about it once she does. All three capture the closeness of sisters whilst also expressing the bitchiness of women as they taunt their brother, tease Natalya and focus on the soldier's looks rather than their personalities.

Tom Campbell captures the awkward, quiet, subservient brother Andrey well as he looks perpetually nervous around his sisters and his eventual wife. His outpourings to the partially deaf servant Ferapont (John Grinston) are wonderful in their sincerity and frustration as he gradually becomes aware of Natalya's true nature. His quiet, somewhat morose tone is countered by Marya's husband Fyodor Ilyich Kuligin, presented by Kenneth Moraleda. Moraleda gives Fyodor a comically camp, perpetually positive tone inkeeping with the notion that it was more important to be seen to be happy than to show true emotion.

Lauren Richardson, as Natalya Ivanovna, the village girl who turns Andrey's head is deliciously awful as the social climbing hussy who wants the estate to herself despite the fact it was not Andrey's to give her but rather jointly owned by all four siblings. As Natalya gains confidence and power, Richardson ensures that her carriage gets grander with sweeping entrances and expansive gestures to match the increasingly shrill voice.

With 4 acts of 45 minutes each and a 20 minute interval between the second and third act, THREE SISTERS is a marathon performance with a large cast of 14 characters and 6 extras. This emotionally heavy work that explores broken dreams and unrealisable hopes, the feeling of physical and mental isolation, love and lack of it and the role of women in the early 1900's, is not really for those seeking a night of light theatre but rather those wishing to see a classic in as true a form as possible whilst catering to an Australian audience, and those who are interested in studies on society and history.


Sport For Jove

July 28th - 13 August 2016

Seymour Centre

Related Articles View More Australia - Sydney Stories   Shows

From This Author Jade Kops