Elena and I were full of hope and expectation as we arrived at The Young Vic to see the version of Three Sisters by the acclaimed Australian director Benedict Andrews.
The crowd was young, the crowd was old, very young and very old, black, white and everything in between. It was happy. It had no idea what it was in for, because it was in for an emotional assault course rarely encountered.
Yet it would leave chastened, thoughtful, improved perhaps, and happy to have seen Checkhov’s warning – life has to be lived now, not in three hundred years time, and life can slip away so easily that you only appreciate it acutely, intensely, in the moments before it ends, just as Baron Tusenbach only notices the beauty of the trees around him before he goes off to die in a duel.
This performance gripped us by the throat, it held us tight to its chest, it caused us to shed tears and to smile and laugh in quick succession.
I felt the ghost of Anton Checkhov himself applauding the innovation and modernisation that Benedict Andrews had brought to his masterpiece.
Nothing distracted from the characters, the plot and the pathos, everything enhanced each of these.
If rock music stunned and surprised us, it was with good reason, and as the ingenious 160-table set (counted by Elena) was dismantled, it added to our empathy for the characters and their predicament.
The play’s main device is irony, always difficult to pull off – each character’s hopes for the future are mocked – by themselves, other people or events – and even if they had realised them nothing would change.
The only character to get what she wants is Natasha, the vulgar wife of Andrey, and she only gets what she wants because what she wants is so grubby and small.
Incidentally, Elena pointed out that Natasha was played brilliantly by Emily Barclay as a kind of Victoria Beckham: opinionated, conceited, strutting on heels, tasteless and cruel - Sorry Victoria, no offence, just going by media reports.
The genius of Checkhov is in the penetration he has into the way things are for all of us. It is hard to live in the present. We do tend to keep longing for tomorrow and tomorrow. But we can’t live any other way, we must press on despite the pain that our distance from the day we are in brings about.
It’s enough to make a grown man cry. And I did cry.
Irena say,’ “I’m crying again, why can’t I stop crying?’’
And I couldn’t help crying with her.
And it’s enough to make anyone laugh, as everyone did as Andrey says, “ Why,- when we’ve only just begun to live – do we turn into boring, grey, banal, lazy, apathetic, useless, miserable sacks of shit – why?”
We cried and we laughed because the actors were superb, the writing was true and poetic and the production shone only onto where it was needed.
It was a brilliant performance and we felt as if we would both try to live more in the fure.