Using Chekhov’s play The Three Sisters as inspiration, the Hot Coals theatre company achieve a wonderfully immersive performance. Indulging in a balance of playful comedy and a sense of the sinister fairy-tale, they could be a live version of that half-forgotten cartoon from our childhood.
The performance catches up with the three sisters; Olga (Margaret Courtemanche), Masha (Claire-Louise English) and Irina (Jo Sargeant), 50 years on, discovering them left with nothing but each other and music to accompany them. Performed almost entirely without speech, the play traces their mischievous and determined attempts to refuse eviction and protect their rickety old house from any form of intrusion. The twists and turns that arise from these unfortunate circumstances allow each of the sisters to express and develop their own witty and distinctive personalities. Even the stage embraces the ironic tone of the play, with a slightly painted over fire escape sign, taunting the three sisters who got stuck.
We are brought into their yellow-fading room with crooked doorframes, torn down wallpaper and ancient suitcases. The music helps to seal the audience in with the characters, lulling us into their timeless world that resists any invasion from the outside, whether through a refusal to speak, or the barracade of vodka, old furniture and army helmets.
There is an excellent dynamic between the three actresses of the Hot Coals ensemble. Their outstanding performance and its direction is refreshingly original and creative – we can only hope to see more of it in the future.