The symbolism of three women has had resonances throughout art and literature – the Three Graces, the Three Wyrd Sisters, the Three Sisters. The three women in the play bring a fresh perspective to this tradition. Known only as A, B and C they represent three generations of 20th Century female experience and expectation.
One of the striking things I felt about the play as it progressed was the texture of the language. The use of repeated phrases, vocal ticks and meaningful pauses place the work very much at the centre of 20th century style. It involves the audience very cleverly without becoming an imposition.
During the first act, I kept being reminded of Waiting for Godot. Beckett’s play was famously reviewed as being a play in which ‘Nothing happens. Twice.’ We are introduced to an elderly woman waiting both for death and the return of her son – she is trapped by her circumstances, her failing memory and body and the fact that death and familial reconciliation both seem to elude her. Unlike the two men in Godot, these women are surrounded by money and comfort – a resonance of many of the female characters found in Chekhov. This is a potent mix – and one that explodes with huge theatrical force in the second act. But I will not spoil it for you!
All three female actors must have been delighted to have had the opportunity to work with such vivid writing. They are some of the best roles for women to have been written in the past 20 years – particularly for the older characters. Majorie Yates, Diane Fletcher and Anna-Louise Plowman all give nuanced and polished performances, It would be unfair to single out any individual in such a strong ensemble piece.
I have a couple of minor niggles. The lighting design, whilst very artistic, was something that I was constantly noticing. To my mind, that is always a problem. A good lighting design is one that enhances the acting without drawing attention to itself. On this occasion it jarred with me.
The direction, though clearly intelligent and true to the emotional core of the writing, did seem somewhat over-played at times. I did feel that things were over-signposted and some subtlety was lost as a result.
These are minor quibbles in what was an outstanding piece of theatre. It is touring to Guildford and Cambridge and would certainly grace the West End should the opportunity arise. The performances deserve that sort of exposure.