THIS PRODUCTION HAS NOW CLOSED:
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Lyttelton Theatre (National Theatre): Previewed 2 Aug, Opened 12 Aug 2003, Closed 18 Oct 2003
Play by Anton Chekhov, in a new version by Nicholas Wright, directed by Katie Mitchell with designs by Vicki Mortimer, lighting by Paule Constable, music by Paul Clark and sound by Gareth Fry.
It seems to me that you've got to believe in something, or at least look for something to believe in, or your life is empty. Completely empty. If you don't know why the cranes are flying, or why children are born, or why the stars are in the sky... if we don't know what we're here for, then our lives don't have any meaning, they've just sprouted up like weeds.
Four young people are left stranded in a provincial backwater after the death of their father, an army General. They focus their dreams on returning to Moscow, a city remembered through the eyes of childhood as a place where happiness is possible.
The sisters are played by Lorraine Ashbourne (Olga), Eve Best (Masha) and Anna Maxwell Martin (Irina), and the cast also includes Ben Daniels (Vershinin), Paul Hilton, Tim McMullan, Peter Needham, Dominic Rowan (André), Lucy Whybrow (Natasha) and Angus Wright.
This will be the first production of the play at the National since Laurence Olivier's celebrated 1967 production.
The following book is available to buy online: Anton Chekhov at the Moscow Art Theatre
The Moscow Art Theatre is still recognized as having more impact on modern theatre than any company in the world. This lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced facsimile edition of a Russian journal from 1914 documents, photographically, the premieres of all of Anton Chekhov's plays produced by the Moscow Art Theatre. With 175 unique photos, this is a significant contribution to our own understanding of the origins of today's theatre. Buy online....
Lorraine Ashbourne makes her debut at the National; theatre work includes Katie Mitchell's production of The Phoenician Women at the RSC, Fool for Love (Donmar Warehouse) and The Kitchen (Royal Court). Her extensive television credits include several series of Playing the Field and City Central; films include Distant Voices Still Lives, Jack and Sarah and Fever Pitch.
Eve Best, Anna Maxwell Martin and Lucy Whybrow were recently seen at the NT in Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia. Eve Best's other stage credits include 'Varya' in The Cherry Orchard and The Heiress at the NT, The Misanthrope (Chichester), 'Lady Macbeth' in Macbeth (Shakespeare's Globe) and 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (Young Vic, winning the Evening Standard and Critics' Circle Outstanding Newcomer awards); her television credits include Shackleton.
Anna Maxwell Martin has just completed the run of Honour (NT Cottesloe).
Dominic Rowan was recently in the role of 'Freud' in The Talking Cure (NT Cottesloe). His other credits include Lobby Hero (Donmar Warehouse), Private Lives (NT Lytttelton) and Two Gentlemen of Verona (RSC).
Ben Daniels won an Olivier Award for 'Best Supporting Actor' for his role as 'Chris Keller' in Howard Davies's production of All My Sons (NT Cottesloe then NT Lyttelton Theatre); other theatre work includes Tales from Hollywood (Donmar Warehouse), 900 Oneonta (Old Vic) and As You Like It (Sheffield Crucible). TV includes two series of Cutting It, Real Men and Aristocrats; films include Conspiracy, Fanny and Elvis and Madeleine.
Nicholas Wright's most recent play at the NT was the award-winning Vincent in Brixton (NT Cottesloe then Wyndham's, also Broadway and television broadcast); his other plays include Cressida, Mrs Klein and The Desert Air. His many adaptations include Wedekind's Lulu, Pirandello's Naked, Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman and Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author. His adaptation of Philip Pullman's novels His Dark Materials will be staged at the National in autumn 2003.
Katie Mitchell's previous work at the National includes Ivanov, The Oresteia, Rutherford and Son and The Machine Wreckers. Her other credits include Mountain Language/ Ashes to Ashes, Nightsongs and The Country (all Royal Court Theatre Downstairs).
News about the show
On 23 January 2003: The National Theatre's Artistic Director, Nicholas Hytner, announced a number of productions which he hoped to present at the National from Summer 2003 and beyond - included was this production in a new version by Nicholas Wright to be directed by Katie Mitchell with designs by Vicki Mortimer.
On 28 May 2003: It was confirmed that this production will be staged at the NT's Lyttelton Theatre opening 12 August 2003, following previews from 2 August.
On 18 August 2003: It was announced that this production will close on 18 October 2003.
Extracts from the reviews:
"...Katie Mitchell's daringly paced, elegiac version of Three Sisters excavates every nuance from Chekhov's text for a mediation on time worthy of this drama... Mitchell's poignant pacing makes hours feel like spell-binding years. How appropriate that the art-form itself perfectly demonstrates the illustion of time." The London Evening Standard
"...Mitchell's production moves at a languorous, even torpid pace, occasionally slowing to an absolute standstill. Her composition of each scene is painterly and atmospheric, but that careful beauty leaves the audience feeling distanced from the action... Where Mitchell excels is in the tiny details, the brief flares of emotion that can scorch a life, scarring it for ever... But the production as a whole, like the sisters' lives, feels drained of colour. Too many speeches are delivered in a slow, clipped monotone... Three Sisters ought to be emotionally devastating; maintaining a cool intellectual composure, Mitchell's production is never more than mildly affecting." The Guardian
"More than once during Katie Mitchell's production of Three Sisters one feels she has dealt with her concern about conveying the passage of years by playing the drama in real time. The evening lasts three-and-a-half hours, during which time actors take lengthy pauses between lines, move in slow motion, and even, for Christ's sake, freeze and listen to the clock... Apart from the occasional cliche and spot of pretension, however, the direction beautifully serves the play's almost unbearable sense of frustration and despair, and the cast is superb..." The Independent
"...[Katie Mitchell's revival] is a bit slow but always pensive and penetrating. More than any Three Sisters I recall, it contrasts laughter with what comes after: hope and delight with frustration and disillusion... Her production's main strength is its careful delineation of relationships, including some that often get neglected..." The Times