City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Three Sisters, King's Theatre, Review

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 22 October 2014

Show Details
King's Theatre
Tron Theatre Company
John Byrne (writer), Andy Arnold (director), John Byrne and Charlotte Lane (design), Ross Brown (sound design), Mark Doubleday (lighting design)
Andy Clarke (McShane) Stephen Clyde (McCool / Dorbie), Ewan Donald (Fairbairn), Jessica Hardwick (Renee), Muireann Kelly (Olive), Louise McCarthy (Natasha), Martin McCormick (Maloney/ Carnalachie), Dr. MacGillivery (Sylvester McCoy), Maddy (Sally Reid), Jonathan Watson (Archie)

John Byrne’s version of Chekhov’s ‘Three Sisters’ re-locates the play to Dunoon in the 1960’s.

Both place and time are significant, but Byrne adds depth to his re-imagination through his interpretation of the characters as much as of the setting.

Renee (Jessica Hardwick), Olive (Muireann Kelly) and Maddy (Sally Reid) are the daughters of a deceased senior naval officer whose career ended in the West Coast town where they now reside - in their own eyes at least, marooned with their dreams of returning to a London which will recognise their status and embrace their social ambitions.

Their reality, however, are lives limited to complaints about their employment situations and the kind of snatched liaisons produced by parochial boredom.

The sister’s brother, Archie (Jonathan Watson) exemplifies possible talent that has given up any fight he might once have had.

Thus far, so Chekhovian, but Byrne’s version asks some of the questions originally posed in rather different ways. The time frame of the 1960’s takes us back to a point when a revived Scottish consciousness was emerging as a result of post-colonial decline, while the geographical setting reminds us of the still-controversial contribution of Scotland to the perpetuation of nuclear weapons.

The intentional contradictions of Byrne’s ‘small n’ nationalism aside, his version highlights the possible fates of otherwise capable women at the hands of flawed and frequently compromised men.

Dark comedy and the real possibility of tragic results from well-intentioned actions lie at the heart of much of Chekhov’s work, and Byrne brings both these aspects to the fore.

Although this is very much an ensemble piece, and played as such, Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor reminded this reviewer of a certain short Edinburgh comedian on an unknown substance which may well have been considerably greater talent, while Martin McCormick’s impeccably Ulster-accented Maloney and Andy Clark’s unashamedly philandering McShane were both memorable performances.

Rightly, however, it is the ladies of the title to whom greatest praise must go. Jessica Hardwick, Muireann Kelly and Sally Reid bring both deftness and judgement to their roles and leave us feeling that this is indeed a ‘Three Sisters’ for our time and place.

21 - 25 October, 2014