This review was originally written for and published on The Public Reviews.
It’s out with the provincial life of Russia and in with a Dunoon naval base in John Byrne’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s turn of the twentieth century tragi-comedy. Relocated to overlooking the River Clyde estuary, Chekhov’s frustrated sisters must watch the Clyde escape to the south whilst they remain firmly rooted in Scottish soil; their hopes and dreams finely held together by the prospect of returning to the bright lights of London.
As the eldest of three sisters Muireann Kelly’s Olive is an exhausted schoolteacher, affectionate towards those who inhabit her family home whilst privately regretting her spinster status. Jessica Hardwick’s Renee desperately yearns for her beautiful London whilst Sally Reid’s Maddy is sophisticated and sometimes passive, confined to an unhappy marriage and pouring out Brooke’s poetry of soldiers, death and England. Her joy in finding love with Andy Clark’s McShane is perhaps the most touching in the series of performances from the ten-strong cast. Louise McCarthy is suberb as the power-hungry Natasha from Wemyss Bay.
Byrne’s distinctive artistic style is present in the design from the asperous windows and leaf covered walls to his costume design, each character’s personality uniquely represented. His transition from 1900s Russia to 1960s Scotland is a successful one. The immediate sense of comedy is comforting but quickly diminishes to the overwhelming sadness of dashed hopes and failures in the sisters’ darkest hours. The final image of the sisters clinging together, vowing to live, work and learn whilst the soldiers depart is powerful and heartfelt.
Runs until 18 October