RAW: STC’s Three Sisters – Anton Chekhov – Playhouse – 3K

It is true that Chekhov’s astute observations of life at the beginning of the 20th century apply as much today to us all as then with his fellow countrymen. Here three well off sisters and their brother find themselves stuck in a smallish Russian town after their father’s death yearning to return to Moscow, a place they believe will deliver for them what matters in life, wealth, success and love. Their lives there are made as complete as they wish them by the presence of an army garrison but, when they get moved on, the hollowness of their positions gets exposed.

Chekhov spares no one, even those happiest with lot manage to cock things up by the end, layering on the misery for three hours that by its conclusion leaves you drained if not haunted by the self imposed plight of these people.

This is a big production with 14 players and the STC has pulled out all stops to deliver a result of similar proportions with such well known names as (perennial favourite) Edwin Hodgeman as Ferapoint, the slightly deaf business manager to the family and Peter O’Brien (Underbelly etc) as Vershinin, a philandering officer seemingly too scared to face his own home life.  However, the results fall somewhat sort of hopes.

Renato Musolino does well as Baron Tuzenbach and Michael Habib as Chebutykin, the drunk military doctor staying with the family. Of the sisters, Kate Cheel as Irina stands out.

But, at the risk of generating howls of ‘what a cretin’ in the STC’s office at a level that would resonate out into the railway station hall, what was the staging all about? For a well to do family of 100 years ago, the piles of sand in the corners, the cavernous blue areas above the stage with the door left ajar, the ladder and the appearance at the beginning and end of some modern day workers with video recorders looked at best half baked as ideas and just made no sense.

As for the lighting, well the Lighting Manger could have flicked the on-switch at about 8.02pm, gone out for a very big dinner and got back at around 11 and his audience would have been none the wiser.

After the inspired use of the stage and lighting in the STC’s Speaking In Tongues, this play was a bit of a disappointment.

Three Sisters – Great play, fine cast, pity about the staging and direction.

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