The Royal Exchange, Manchester; Thursday 10th May, 2018
Ruling-class Russia, sometime in the distant past: as the noble menfolk are revered for ‘philosophising their heads off’ in the drawing room, RashDash Theatre are wondering why there is no appropriately female-centric verb to describe the banter of women – when men talk in classical theatre they are portrayed to be philosophising, but precisely what is it that women are doing?
And more to the point: why have all the best lines gone to men, in a play that is literally about three sisters?
It becomes clear very early on that (Three Sisters, by RashDash, after Chekhov) is not in any way whatsoever an actual performance of (Three Sisters, by Chekhov).
Instead, RashDash have re-hashed and smashed the entire concept of stuffy old period dramas, as well taking apart the frustratingly elitist underlying paradigm that still sees ancient productions of long-extinct humanoidism revered unquestionably as being the pinnacle of high-artistry for modern-day theatre commissioners.
The Rashdash remix of Three Sisters is chaotically bold and brash, like a one-off special episode of eastern Eurotrash. The three sisters certainly seem look the part with their elegant ball gowns and their refined poise, but their femini-philosophical banter reflects the issues of the modern day: swiping left and right on Tinder; sorting out homelessness; greasing up your fanny to prevent tearing during childbirth.
The performance is a head-spinning mélange that swerves chaotically from moments of deep conjecture and intrigue one minute to loud outbursts of RashDash thrash-rock the next. The musical components are outstanding, not just from the three sisters themselves, but also from the drum-bashing, violin-stroking, synth-teasing back-up duo – both of whom seem to exude some kind of other-worldly knowledgeableness as they silently and mysteriously wait for their cues in between their tuneful blasts.
This is a dramatic and bewildering piece of theatre. Leaving the RashDash performance space at the end of the show was like leaving the scene of a (non-fatal) car crash: the drama is over; everyone seems to be mostly ok (I think); it’s clear that a huge commotion took place that left us all shook; it’s not entirely clear who is responsible for all this but that probably doesn’t matter now; we all just need to make an effort to massage our brains back into the realms of reality now.
Three Sisters, by RashDash, After Chekhov is an exhilarating breath of fresh air. Not for the first time (most notably Jubilee in November 2017) the Royal Exchange have actively commissioned and then stood by a daring production that purposely sets about smashing up the very theatrical foundations that conventional theatre is built upon.
RashDash have crafted a spirited and forceful production that is pure anarchy – an anti-particle of a show that sits far, far away from the comfortable comfortableness of just another night at the theatre. This is that small yet much-yearned-for moment of exhilarating freedom that you just know is another step toward making performance theatre a better place than it currently is.
|Visual pleasure||Beautiful set with so many curious props scattered around like clues from a murder scene. Lighting effects were stunningly good, particularly the powerful and impressive use of darkness to both scare and join scenes.||5|
|Auditory pleasure||As good as the visuals, all five performers showing huge musical talent. Most impressive of all was Abbi Greenland’s rapping of actual Chekhov theatre reviews.||5|
|Architecture & Theme||An excellent concept for a show and brilliantly written, only slight issue was that it contained some “in” jokes that required knowledge of the original play.||4|
|Artistic delivery||Outstanding performances from all five of the cast, a mix of acting, singing, dancing, playing instruments. Remained entertaining throughout, whether it was meant or not the performance came across as satirical, rather than a preachy denouncement of convention.||5|
|Overall impact||A very refreshing and welcome change to (and a direct challenge of) convention. Seems to be somewhere between a slapstick comedy and a period musical, one which raises some intriguing questions along the way.||4|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|