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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

Enkephale in collaboration with Bristow House Productions & W Entertainment presents
 

Promise

An American adaptation of Chekov’s Three Sisters 

by Sophie Angelson 

Directed by James Kemp

Set Design by Sarah June Mills 

Costumes by Lorna Watts 

Lighting by Mahdi Yahya

Rosemary Branch Theatre

 

5 - 23 March 2013
 

Sophie Angelson’s adaptation of Three Sisters is set in stiflingly provincial Nebraska on the brink of World War II and opens on the first anniversary of the death of the Peters sisters’ mother. This coincides with youngest sister Irene (Sophie Angelson) turning twenty and the arrival of two intriguing visitors who remain for the rest of the play - enigmatic Sam, hailing from Omaha but with a distinctive New York Drawl, and old family friend Colonol Vershinin, (Alexander Wolpert). The piece seethes with drama from the very outset and pays unswerving, thoughtful homage to Chekhov, a master of layered, situational theatre.

Motherless, with a father lingering on in terrible ill-health for the entire play and present only as a distant cough, all three pin hopes on a return to New York. They all consider it home, and fantasise liberally about their return as if ever-imminent, in spite of leaving some ten years before and being locked in Nebraska by current circumstances. Promise involves an ambitious number of characters and complex weaving of a series of clandestine relationships given the compact nature of the stage and unchanging domestic set.

The central, mutual obsession is a quest for passion and excitement and lust for the great unknown. All face that age-old quandary of desiring the most unsuitable, least wholly attainable relationship possible. Marie’s (Lois Deeny) conflicted nature is marvellously rendered. She flinches at the touch of her overzealous husband Freddy (Tom Deplae) whom she married in naïve haste years before. By contrast, she melts into the embrace of her lover Colonol Vershinin, (Alexander Wolpert) developing a tragic obsession with the father of two who is already inextricably bound to a suicidal wife and his military duties.

Natasha (Rachel Barry), from costuming to demeanour is a start-to-finish superbitch of the highest calibre. Her initial quirks and apparent insecurities are later uncovered as a manipulative strategy to win the heart of truly awkward and too-loved only brother Andy (Joseph MacNab). The sisters’ slow turning against her as they become more and more exasperated and eventually repulsed by her is a wonderful subplot amongst the myriad familial and romantic relationships.

The set benefits from full decanters scarcely out of one hand or another, the subtle use of book pages in the décor and a hallway in which private moments can unfold, seen by the audience but not the other characters. Wonderfully atmospheric song choices peak in “Let Yourself Go” which paves the way for some sexually charged dancing while channelling the spirit of the era in which the play is set. An upright piano is also put to use for the occasional sentimental sing-along.

Nick Simons’ Uncle Issac is a real presence. He was patently as in love with the Peters’ mother and his best friend’s wife as the sisters are with their respective unattainables. Full of familial tenderness towards his ‘nieces’ he sits at the heart of a portrayal of the unending, cyclical nature of the betrayal and frustration borne of unfortunate love.

The adaptation tickles with the direct oppositions employed, the action opens on the anniversary of a mother and not a father, and it is snow that forces The Vershinin family to seek refuge at the Peters’ here, in direct contrast to Chekhov’s fire. The staple themes however, remain unaltered; the tragedy of frustrated potential and the nature of conflict on every level are explored with notable sensitivity and depth in this robust piece.

 

 

Tickets: £13/£10 (concessions)

Box Office 020 7704 2730
 
Rosemary Branch Theatre
2 Shepperton Road, London N1 3DT
www.rosemarybranch.co.uk
 
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