Les Tres Germanes
Chekhov isn’t for everyone. While some will say his knack for symbolism and pathos make him one of the greatest ever dramatists, others find watching his plays a bit like sitting through a dreary midweek episode of Eastenders: not much happens and everyone is miserable.
Les Tres Germanes, or The Three Sisters, was the first of Chekhov’s works to be written specifically for Stanislavski’s esteemed Moscow Arts Theatre in 1900; its lack of action and inexpressive characters delighted audiences but shocked conservative critics. A stark portrayal of the decline of Russia’s privileged upper-class and a family’s frustration, the play, with its strong female leads, has been a constant presence on theatre studies’ courses for decades.
Chekhov’s initial inspiration for the work is said to have been the life story of England’s Brontë sisters who lived in wealthy isolation on the North Yorkshire Moors with their philandering and half-cut older brother.
Here the action takes place in a humdrum, provincial backwater in Russia. The three Prozorov sisters—Olga, Masha and Irina—are desperate to get back to the thrills and refinement of their beloved Moscow but duty, circumstance and the misadventures of their brother seem set to prevent it.
The themes of alienation, boredom and the common stresses of life run deep in this four-act play. As the pensive Lieutenant Colonel Vershinin puts it, “Mankind is looking for something, and will certainly find it—oh, if it only happened more quickly.” It is this, the characters’ constant search for meaning in the modern world, which has made Chekhov’s play so enduring, and so enticing to contemporary directors.
English-language theatre has been thin on the ground of late in Barcelona, but this Catalan production at the Teatre Lluire on Montjuïc comes with English and Castilian subtitles on Thursday and Saturday nights from March 17th. Expect a modern twist or two, as, for this world premiere, director Carlota Subirós plans to focus not on what this literary classic meant back in 20th-century Russia, but how the siblings’ hopes of change are just as relevant in these troubled times.