Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We are Three Sisters

We're in a modest dining room in the Parsonage, at Howarth, in 1848. The wind howls audibly through the moors.  Seated around the dining table with her sisters, Charlotte Bronte, reflects on their mother's death.  Restless, slender Emily coughs (gently); Anne writes in her diary - it's her birthday.  In spite of the gloom, there's a small sense of contented anticipation in the air, as the sisters discuss an outing to London. Until their dour father, Patrick, accuses his daughters of being like men... with their scribbling, philosophising and reading of fat books. 

The entrance of an eligible curate, the presence of the hopeless, love-struck doctor and dramatic disruption caused by wayward Bronte brother, Branwell, enliven the setting.  The doctor's passion for whiskey, altruistic concerns, pessimistic ruminations - combined with references to fundraising and music - all add tangibly to the pervasive evocation of Chekhov.

Branwell's mature (married) lover, (fortuitously named) Mrs Robinson, in remarkably vivid green silk, introduces light-relief and ridicule.  Emily, far from downcast by her surroundings, or 'tales of woe', exudes quiet joy, in her lyrical recitation "there is a silent eloquence in every wild bluebell, that fills my softened heart with bliss" - countering despair.

The infusion of Chekhov with the Brontes is a successful, thought-provoking partnering - in all its guises and references.  Calm, dark, reflection on the tribulations of life, loneliness and potential for love are interwoven - beautifully and skilfully - by playwright, Blake Morrison. Barrie Rutter's spirited direction and the consuming performances, of a flawless cast, ensure that Charlotte's words, in the final scene, ring true " the end, we will be remembered."

Northern Broadsides We are Three Sisters runs at the Rose Theatre Kingston, until Saturday, 19th November 2011.   Tickets £8-£25.

Credit: We are Three Sisters photo © Nobby Clark

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