As a family comes to terms with the world after the end of the Second World War, where and with whom they belong is brought into question as they struggle to find a new purpose in life. Charlotte Marshall was in the audience for the first night of 3 Sisters On Hope Street.
Reworking the famous Chekhov play Three Sisters, writers Diane Samuels and Tracy-Ann Oberman transfer the action from Russia to Liverpool within a Jewish family’s grand home. Opening in 1946, a year after the death of the sisters’ beloved father and in the early period of peace time, William Morris wallpaper and regular bursts of Gershwin fill the stage, evoking a strong sense of the period.
Noisy and cluttered, the house is filled with various family members living under the same roof in a realistic chaotic and affectionate manner. The three sisters Gertie, May and Rita Lasky live alongside their elderly, eccentric Auntie Beli, who refuses to unpack the suitcase under her bed for fear of attack, Dr Nate Weinberg, a family friend who has a darker side than we first recognise in the charismatic uncle figure, and sole brother Arnold, whose potential to be brilliant is extinguished by Debbie, a gauche redhead with a strong Liverpudlian accent who lacks the sophistication of the Laskys. The characters upper class accents and jolly banter is interspersed with the regular appearance of GIs from the nearby air base welcomed into their home, who continue to play an important role in the sisters’ lives long after fighting has ceased.
As the play evolves, each character struggles with their desire to rediscover a sense of belonging. As Vince, an American pilot who seems continually lost says, “Peace is a big hole, I can’t find the point.” In the aftermath of the purpose war gave them, they are left feeling as if they may not have won at all. At first the sisters’ solution is to return to their childhood home of New York. However as the play progresses, these dreams are put to one side as each character finds themselves drawn to something bigger and further away from the house that becomes less and less a home. Rita, an idealist, finds a new way to carry on fighting. May, frivolous and jaded, falls in love in full view of her well-meaning husband. And Gertie the oldest, most stable sister acts as a pillar on which the rest continually lean.
Funny, poignant and at some points heartbreakingly sad, 3 Sisters On Hope Street explores the people left looking for meaning in a changed world, where their only fixed point is each other.
3 Sisters On Hope Street runs until 29 March at Hampstead theatre.