The day is May 5th. The year is unspecified. The cast and crew of Anton Chekhov’s infamous Three Sisters invite you to a small provincial town in Russia (conveniently located in the Hertford College Bop cellar) for Tara Isabella Burton’s rendition of the play.
The piece, performed in a promenade style where the audience is invited to sit, stand and walk around the living room set, deals with the frustrations and aspirations of the Russian Prozorov family, who are dissatisfied with the state of their current lives.
Olga (Flo Oakley), Masha (Cassie Barraclough), and Irina (Ali Walsh), the three sisters, distinctly unique in their respective character approaches, each give the performance an authentic believability that carries the play.
The brave attempt to incorporate spectators directly into the piece challenges the audience to see an overall picture of the piece as it progresses. ‘Dynamic performing’ is taken to a new level as the acting is not limited to one section of the ‘stage’ at a time, but involves continuous action throughout the duration of the play.
Keeping the audience continually involved, however, at times impedes on the focus on any ongoing dialogue as there is a lack of specific focus.
The ensemble struggles to find a rhythm throughout parts of the play, and there is a slight lack of energy and flow within the group as a whole. Yet there are notable highlights, including several touching and mesmerizing monologues. One is almost compelled to lean over and console Masha as she passionately declares her love for Vershinin (Huw Smith-Jones) to the other two sisters in Act Three.
Anything but conventional, one will inevitably be drawn into the play. If not on a mental plane, then at least physically.
Three Sisters is at the Hertford Bop Cellar, 23-27 Feb, 7.30pm