by RashDash after Chekhov
The Yard Theatre
Reviewed – 24th May 2018
“The piece is brimming with an electric energy that is infectious, vital and unapologetic”
Across the stage: a drum kit, a bath, a chandelier that almost grazes the floor, two chairs, a pie, a chaise longue, a piano. The lights go down. The lights go up. The white, bespectacled bust of Chekhov stares back at us to the sound of applause. The lights go down again. So begins RashDash’s reimagining of ‘Three Sisters’ and it is no conventional reimagining. The piece was created, it is implied, after a reviewer recommended that in order for the group to be taken seriously, they ought to engage with ‘the classics’. Certainly this engages with said classics, not to obliterate them completely but to ask how they can be made applicable to the modern day woman, and even how might Chekhov have written his three sisters in a present day setting.
This is a night of disruption – disruption to theatrical form in that the piece weaves from play to concert to dance show to clowning and round again, and disruption to the literary canon as the trio questions how we can engage in the famed classics where we are barely featured. Interspersed with chants of “men make speeches, men make speeches”, it quickly becomes apparent that even when women take the title roles, it doesn’t mean they are given anything of substance to say or do. The question “What does it mean when a group of women talk to each other?” is met with a lengthy silence.
The piece is brimming with an electric energy that is infectious, vital and unapologetic. It is laced with moments of wonderful visual comedy: Spice Girls costumes (including a sequined Union Jack dress), Chekhov’s bust as baby and lover (not simultaneously), and Olga stood on two stacks of books balanced on Masha’s horizontal body: a visual depiction of the weight of the canon. The cast change over and over from ballgowns to bear suits, cheerleading outfits and a sparkling knight’s headdress, stripping semi-naked time and again in the process of helping each other into the next outfit.
Perhaps most striking about the production is the incredible talent of those onstage. Our trio, made up of Abbie Greenland, Helen Goalen and Becky Wilkie, can act, sing, dance, play musical instruments, make us laugh, make us want to dance, make us think – it’s a masterclass to behold. They are supported by two fantastic musicians, Choe Rianna on the drums and Yoon-Ji Kim jumping between violin and synth. Rosie Elnile’s set design is flawlessly haphazard, full of hidden gems and boasting a back wall of zine-like collage, all effectively lit by lighting designer Ziggy Jacobs. There isn’t a weak link in the production.
There are moments during several of the songs where the words get lost under the music, a particular shame in the number commenting on the critical reception of Chekhov-inspired productions. In moments, the absurdity of the play dominates to such an extent that the narrative is lost and confusion temporarily reigns, and for those unfamiliar with the play it could take a while to settle into the references of the piece. But then this isn’t a piece about settling or linearity.
A rousing call to create work that truly represents and embodies us, and to respond creatively to work and sectors of the world that don’t, RashDash’s production is fiercely vibrant. At points parodic, and always playful, the show is filled with wit, joy and plenty of stripping. This is Chekhov as you have never seen him before, and surely now hope to see him again.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by The Other Richard
by RashDash after Chekhov
The Yard until 9th June
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