CLASSIC REVIVAL Three Sisters
Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum, Thu I I Feb—Sat 4 Mar.
Anton Chekhov‘s Three Sisters exemplifies the dramatist’s ambition to portray the actions of ordinary people 'as complex and yet just as simple as they are in life'. The play's sensitive depiction of human behaviour against a backdrop of social transition evidently resonates today as, almost a century after the playwright's death, Three Sisters is still regularly revived and updated.
The latest practitioner to fall for Chekhov’s trio of pining siblings is Tony Cownie, whose forthcoming production reunites the director with playwright Liz Lochhead and the Royal Lyceum company following last summer’s winning evacuee comedy Britannia Rules. Lochhead's adaptation transposes the action of the four-act original from a late 19th century Russian town to post-war rural Scotland. Chekhov's Irena, Masha and Olga are now Irene, Millie and Libby - an English family, complaining of 'the midgies' and longing, not for Moscow, but for a Utopian Oxford, scene of their parents' courtship. Prominent ensemble member Tom McGovern plays the life-embracing soldier Vershinen as an ex-pat American Colonel.
Significantly, Lochhead felt unable to update the period setting beyond the 19405 and post-feminism. Yet, the play’s eternal central theme of people trapped by their nostalgia for tradition holds particular poignancy for contemporary audiences forced to confront their fears and uncertainties in the advent of a new century. The updated text is peppered with references to Tennyson and Rabbie Burns, and Cownie hopes that by substituting the play's more esoteric references for familiar ones. he and Lochhead will be able to attract a broader audience to Chekhov's work.
‘For me, Three Sisters is one of the greatest plays ever written,’ opines the director. 'It’s funny and sad and moving, but there's a certain stigma attached to
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Ari accessible, and Scottish Chekov: Tony Cownie
Chekhov's works that they're all stuffy and boring. It's the duty of this production to decode the play so it's not just accessible to an intellectual minority. The production team's committed to this aim. We want to strip away the samovarsl’
Understandably, Chekhov isn't the only major playwright about whom Cownie is enthusiastic. Three Sisters is the most recent product of Cownie's long- standing association with Lochhead's work which has seen him carry out thespian as well as directing duties (he played Orgon in Lochhead's translation of Moliere’s Tartuffe).
‘I love Liz's writing. She writes in such a . . .real way,’ he asserts, attempting to elucidate the success of their collaboration. ’Well, to be honest, we just get on really well. We've got the same sense of humour. It just works.’ (Allan Radcliffe)
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Base desire: Horses, Horses, Coming In In All Directions
they hit the water and die,’ Harrison cheerfully enthuses. ’There's a kind of comic hope in the story. We’re basically trying to draw on the humour of relationships. One phrase we use is "joyous mess”. We're saying, yes there are always complications, but they're also comic and exciting.‘
Other cynical insights include the tongue-in-cheek tale of a beautiful French student obsessed with the brutal advances of a grotesquely obese butcher and an examination of the relationship between horses and male sexuality. As you’d expect from a play inspired by the angst-ridden lyrics of 705 rock-poet Patty Smith, music also plays a big part in the performance. Actors and musicians work in unison to provide a soundtrack as eclectic as its characters, and combined with the
Horses, Horses Coming In In All Directions Glgsgow: The Arches, Thu lO—Sat 19 Fe .
According to Ben Harrison, writer- director of The Arches offbeat take on human relationships, suicide is a really great way to meet people. Picture the
50 THE LIST 3—17 Feb 2000
scene. A heart-broken Romeo jumps off a bridge and, in the brief moments between jumping and soggy oblivion, falls madly in love with another spurned lover also about to "sleep with the fishes".
’Their eyes meet in mid-air and they realise they want to be together for the rest of their lives. Which they are, because precrsely three seconds later
haunting atmosphere of The Arches' cavernous grotto, Horses promises to be one hell of a romantic encounter. 'We've used the whole of The Arches complex, in each room there's a different fragment in the story's development,’ explains Harrison. ’Through light, smell, colour and sound, we've tried to create a total sensory experience' (Olly Lassinan)
RELATIONSHIP DRAMA Home
Glgsgow: Tron Theatre, Tue 8-Sat 12 Fe .
Despite losing out on Scottish Arts Council funding in 1998, lookOUT theatre company are bouncing back with Home, a new play by the company’s artistic director Nicola McCartney. Set in an anonymous West of Scotland seaside town, the plot centres around a young woman returning after a successful career abroad. She shares a house with her mother, sister and aunt, but in her absence their lives have clearly changed.
Focusing more on character development than plot, Home explores how the four women re-negotiate their relationships in the three or four days following her return. 'You're looking at a set of relationships in a house that has resonances for all of them and has a history for all of them,’ says McCartney. ’They’re all trying to piece together their past and their feelings about each other.‘
Tapping into contemporary concerns, one of the central themes of the play examines concepts of space; personal, emotional and physical. ’lt’s about your own personal space’, explains McCartney. 'How you relate to buildings and why houses are special to us. Other people can take up your physical space too. The way we walk and speak is formed on a pattern of other people in our family, like habits or intonations.’ This thematic concern is reflected in the form of the writing. 'The characters keep splitting off into what I'm calling "inner space time”, so there's a lot of poetic monologue. They’re trying to make sense of their world and they need this inner space time.’
Presenting fragmented pieces of information that have to be fitted together, Home, promises to be an engaging evening presented by a company that refuses to take its audience for granted. ’lt's a play that you have to listen to as much as you have to watch,’ argues McCartney. And with lookOUT again in receipt of Arts Council funding, it won’t just be the audience who'll be watching. (Davie Archibald)
The wall of silence between families: Home