It was great to be in The Abbey Theatre – the National Theatre – for Brian Friel’s version of Anton Checkhov’s Three Sisters and see two Waterford actors on stage. Brian Doherty was in a leading role as Baron Tusenbach and Andrew Macklin as one of the young officers Roddey who brought life into the play. This was Brian’s sixth time working at the Abbey and he was a Red Kettle founder member when he was better known as Dots. Andrew Macklin was making his first Abbey performance. He came up through the Waterford Youth Drama ranks and is another Bro. Ben Hanlon protégé from De La Salle shows when he was known as Andrew McLoughlin.
This is an excellent production directed by David Leveaux who has recently directed Kevin Kline, Jessica Lange and Antonio Banderas on Broadway. An original Russian play about a brother and three sisters who live in boring obscurity in the provinces but dream of returning to Moscow. Their father, a military man, was posted to the outposts and local officials and visiting soldiers are the only relief from daily boredom. Their father is dead and they each have an inheritance to support them. Olga, played with resignation by Justine Mitchell, is a school teacher who believes in work to give meaning to life. Masha played with tantrums and catatonic rages by a splendid Derbhla Crotty is unhappily married to civil servant/teacher Kulygin played with blind belief by Darragh Kelly and the youngest Irina who speaks long about the nobility and freedom in work and suffers most. All three in different ways long for love and for men to come and take them away and change their lives. They whine about Moscow as some unattainable civilised paradise but cannot get up and go there. You’d feel like shouting up to get off their arses and take control of their lives and dreams.
The weak-willed brother Andrej marries a local girl Natasha (Fiona Bell) who upsets the balance as Friel sees it in a class issue like Upstairs Downstairs. Natasha is a bitch and she has children by Andrej and has affairs with important people; dismissing servants who see themselves as part of the family and she orders the trees about the house to be chopped down.
It all ends unhappily but the quality of the acting is wonderful. Eamon Morrissey as dissolute doctor Chebutykin is excellent as is Lorcan Cranitch as Vershinin. Brian Doherty brings a noble stuffiness to the Baron and Andrew Macklin breathes life and youth as he chases echoes of parties and happiness about fifteen years before the awful act of history, the Russian Resolution.
It runs until 2nd August and is everything you expect from a national theatre.