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A CurtainUp London Review
Storm in a Teacup
by Tim Newns
In this story we see Olga, Irina and Masha, the three sisters from Chekhov's play, still living together. Very old, slightly decrepit and extremely stubborn they are refusing to leave their abode despite the threat of eviction.
As the sands of time dissipate and more and more eviction notices appear, the three battle to keep the risk of expulsion from one another with funny and heart-warming results. With the rest of the neighbourhood seemingly being torn apart around them, the piece culminates in them building a barricade out of tattered suitcases and dirty bed sheets.
These three sisters are ready to fight to the death rather than be wheeled off to the local retirement home. The play doesn't just make reference in character to a Chekhov classic but also makes some very important points about society and its often ridiculous treatment of the elderly. One particular moment of poignancy is the realisation that after a whole lifetime we are often expected to whittle down possessions to a single suitcase.
From entering the space one quickly realises the typical naturalism of a Chekhov story has been taken over by a more absurd and warped exterior. The set consists of oversized doorways and undersized beds all nicely blended by an almost animated façade of dilapidation and age. Fian Andrew's design succeeds in creating a rather Alice in Wonderland effect providing a suitable platform on which the three "Russian dolls" can perform.
The performances are all praiseworthy in their individuality. However, at times the general tone of the production is in danger of being spoilt by off timing and moments being over played. Subsequently the pace often jilts to a halt, only to be punched back into speed by the juxtaposition of action-movie orchestral scores and Russian folk music. Yes, part of the charm of such a performance type is the ability to stretch a joke or a parody to the extreme but with a little trimming down these moments could be made all the more powerful.
Even with the timing errors and technical glitches we do form quite an attachment to the three characters and that is testament to their skill in telling a story through physicality alone. Believability is key and although it is plainly obvious that young performers play the elderly sisters, we are completely taken in by their exaggerated fragility.
Storm in a Teacup comes from a specialised genre that doesn't appeal to all but the production does manage to be creative and different and that's its spell.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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