We rounded up the reviews for a new production of Three Sisters at the National Theatre.
The Upcoming: “All this makes Ellams’ Three Sisters a strong but currently flawed success which won’t need much improvement to turn it into a true masterpiece.”
Time Out: ★★★ “It’s a free adaptation that could afford to be freer, to dig into historical events without being tied to its Russian source – but when Ellams finds moments of synchronicity between continents, they’re painfully beautiful.”
Culture Whisper: ★★★ “Although there is so much heart and humour and sadness, the play makes for a dense and long three hours. But there’s enough insight, warmth and originality to make this Three Sisters memorable. “
The Telegraph: ★★★★ “A superb adaptation of Three Sisters set amid Nigeria’s civil war, one which brilliantly fuses the personal and political while demonstrating that Chekhov can thrive far beyond the bounds of Europe. It also confirms Ellams as one of our most exciting, insightful playwrights.”
The Guardian: ★★★★ “But there is strength in depth throughout the company. Ken Nwosu hints at the vanity behind the commander’s philosophising, Tobi Bamtefa disintegrates memorably as the sisters’ once high-flying brother and Jude Akuwudike is all growing disillusion as the brigade doctor. Ronke Adekoluejo also has the right brashness as the brother’s Yoruba bride, whose own clandestine affair actually ensures the family is fed, and Anni Domingo as an elderly retainer embodies the bolshy outspokenness of age.”
iNews: ★★★★ “At a little over three hours it’s not a short evening, but this Three Sisters, confidently played by its ensemble cast and technically very accomplished (plaudits for Donato Wharton’s sound design), brings a real breath of fresh air to the National.”
London Box Office: ★★★★ “It is a hard-hitting, challenging political play and the blame for the troubles in Nigeria is firmly laid at the door of the British. If it becomes didactic at times, it never loses sight of the human tragedy. It is an intelligent reworking of the original Russian play but it stands on its own as a story that should not be forgotten.”
Evening Standard: ★★★ “At its best it is a fine, consciousness-expanding example of this year’s trend for fashioning wise new plays out of classics. The acting is top-notch. But I wish director Nadia Fall had reined in Ellams’s excesses, particularly in the awkward final act.”
The Times: ★★★★ “Chekhov’s Three Sisters has been rewritten and shifted to Biafra, the independent state that flickered briefly in the late 1960s before being clawed back into Nigeria’s maw. It’s a long evening, but it works. The story depends on a sprawling family, a spacious house, intellectual seclusion and middle-aged chastity. Such notions having almost disappeared from egalitarianised modern Europe, it makes sense to shift the tale to West Africa.”
Broadway World: ★★★★★ “At around three hours long, it may seem a bit of a daunting prospect, but the first two acts flash by so quickly that you don’t really notice – after the interval it does slow a little, as it becomes darker and more melancholic, reaching for an ending, but it is well worth investing your time. An intensely gripping production that refreshes Chekhov in an unexpectedly effective manner.”
Three Sisters continues to play at the National Theatre until 19 February 2020.