The Three Sisters given distinct Scottish twist by playwright John Byrne
- Lorna Irvine
- 19 September 2014
Chekhov classic directed by Andy Arnold and set in 1960s parochial Dunoon
John Byrne's idiosyncratic vision has always brought mischief to drama, as with perennial favourites The Slab Boys and Tutti Frutti which spoke in a no-nonsense yet nostalgic way of old, tough Glasgow. Following on from his recent, critically acclaimed adaptations of The Cherry Orchard and Uncle Vanya, he now lends his distinctive voice and design to another Chekhov classic, The Three Sisters, by transporting it from turn-of-the-19th century Russia, to the not-terribly swinging 60s in a parochial Dunoon.
The titular siblings Maria, Irina and Olga thus become Maddy, Renee and Olive (played by Muireann Kelly, Jessica Hardwick and Sally Reid), all waiting for life to begin. It's a reimagining that works, according to director Andy Arnold. 'The situation provides parallels,' he explains, 'and the narrative of the original is kept very much intact: a comment on the circumstances of a family struggling to survive in very unfamiliar surroundings, and a long way from home.'
He has very much enjoyed the collaborative process with Byrne. 'John and I have been planning this for the past year or more,’ says Arnold. ‘He has a very visual and theatrical approach which I relate to and we seemed in tune with each other very quickly. He saw my production of Ulysses last year and really liked it, so it was easy for us to connect with the same theatre language.'
Chekhov's universality is also something that chimes with Arnold, and he believes this is why the work still resonates today. 'The themes – loss, envy, unrequited love, a sense of failure – are common to all civilisations. It is a wonderfully crafted play which combines great tragedy with love and humour.’
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 1–Sat 18 Oct.