WORTH A LOOK?: ***
WHERE? Almeida Theatre RUNTIME: 2 hours and 55 minutes (including a 15-minute interval)
WHEN? 13/4, opens 16/4, runs to 1/6/19
We were in the audience on Sunday night at the Royal Albert Hall when Patsy Ferran (pictured left above) deservedly won the Best Actress Olivier Award for Summer And Smoke.
- Read on for reasons including how Ferran stands out in a fine ensemble cast in Three Sisters
She’s one of our favourite actresses of the moment although we actually felt her stand-out performance of last year was at the Royal Court in monologue My Mum’s A Twat.
We’ve followed her theatre career over the last few years in productions including Speech And Debate in the intimate Trafalgar Studios 2 and As You Like It in the rather bigger National Theatre.
Ferran was directed by Olivier Best Director nominee Rebecca Frecknall in Summer And Smoke and it was a production which originated here at the Almeida. The 325-seater is 1 of our favourite intimate spaces and its exposed brickwork makes for a stunning backdrop to a bare stage boasting a grand piano which reminds of the simple yet startling staging of Summer And Smoke.
Ferran plays Olga the eldest of the titular sisters who are marooned in a provincial Russian town at the turn of the 20th century after the death of their father yet dream of a return to their beloved Moscow. She is the matriarchal figure of the Prozorov family and we share her pain as she despairs at never finding a husband, confessing later that she would have had ‘any man, even an old man if he had asked’.
Elsewhere her married sister Masha (a moody Pearl Chanda, left above) embarks on an affair with a married soldier and youngest sister Irina (a childlike Ria Zmitrowicz) settles for second best (a fine Shubham Saraf).
There’s a lot going on, with brother Andrey (a memorable Freddie Meredith definitely a name to watch out for) on a downward trajectory and soldiers including a scene-stealing Vladimir (played by Sonny Poon Tip) and Alexander Eliot’s difficult Vasily, forever clutching a perfume bottle, making his stage debut dropping by.
We enjoyed the choreographed chairs at the show’s funeral opening, joyful dancing and use of photographs projected against the back wall of the theatre but yearned for more of Ferran.
This version by Cordelia Lynn is given a verbal update but felt a little too long and as though there was far too much talking at the expense of the unfolding dramatic events that come to fruition in the second half. We spy actor Jonathan Pryce in the stalls with us and feel Frecknall was trying a little hard to outdo Robert Icke whose fine Chekhov (Uncle Vanya) and Ibsen adaptations (The Wild Duck ) this resembles in length alone.
There’s value for money then, a fine ensemble cast and a striking setting but if you’re looking for a better depiction of the complicated relationship between sisters we’d recommend series 2 of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s magnificent Fleabag.