Yard Theatre, London – until 9 June 2019
British theatre’s slavish reverence for classic texts stifles innovation, resulting in safe, similar productions of the same collection of canonical works. This attitude needs to be challenged, and RashDash’s Three Sisters proves it’s the company to do it. Its female-centred, millennial take on Chekhov’s story of three women trapped in the Russian countryside pining for their old lives in Moscow is a gloriously irreverent and refreshing interpretation.
The titular three sisters are accompanied by a pair of musicians (Chloe Rianna and Yoon-Ji Kim) as they bash through a life of waiting and reflection both historically and today. One struggles to get over a breakup, another wrestles with her inability to save the world from inevitable doom, and the third tries to fill her life with meaningful activities. Instead of wishing they could go back to the excitement of city life as they do in the original, this trio longs for the quiet countryside, where the can ignore their social media and not feel so pressured to have babies and buy houses they can’t afford anyway.
A hefty dose of absurdity accompanies an energetic staging sprinkled with excellent music. It’s often very funny, especially as those of us that are also victims of high living costs, low earnings and awareness of the world’s imminent destruction lash out against the monster of patriarchal capitalism that has enslaved us all. Though I laugh a lot, it’s been a while since I’ve been this seen at the theatre. It’s both comforting and disconcerting that we are undeniably fucked.
Though the show’s structure initially seems chaotic, there’s a precise and conscious dramaturgy at work. No moment is extraneous, and the length is bang-on for what is an intense sensory experience. The integration of contemporary commentary – including some excellent ridicule of mainstream theatre journalism and criticism – expands the dialogue from being just about this particular play to the entirety of the white, male canon and how these works are approached in production and commentary. It’s a genius move.
The performances are excellent, with Helen Goalen, Abbi Greenland and Becky Wilkie as the sisters complementing each other with balance and intuition. Their physical sequences are skilful and intimate, and they flip from Chekhov’s Russia to modern life seamlessly.
Though there is value in more conventionally staged classical works, there really is no need for the number that grace British stages. Let RashDash have at the rest of them (can we please, please, see Hamlet next?), in London and beyond.