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based on “Three Sisters” by Anton Chekhov

adaptation, directed by: Luk Perceval | stage design, video: Philip Bussmann | costumes: Annelies Vanlaere | lights direction: Mark Van Denesse | music: Karol Nepelski | script translation: Karolina Bikont | dramaturgy cooperation: Roman Pawłowski | director’s assistants: Alek Niemiro, Aleksandra Śliwińska | literary assistant: Jacek Telenga | costume designer’s assistant: Karolina Bramowicz | set manager: Karolina Pająk-Sieczkowska | stage manager: Wojciech Sobolewski

Jacek Berler, Zygmunt Józefczak, Natalia Kalita, Rafał Maćkowiak, Maria Maj, Jacek Romanowski, Małgorzata Zawadzka, Mirosław Zbrojewicz,  Oksana Czerkaszyna or Marta Ojrzyńska

production: TR Warszawa
co-produced by: The Helena Modrzejewska National Stary Theatre in Cracow

date of the premiere:
Cracow: 21.05.2021, The Helena Modrzejewska National Stary Theatre in Krakow
Warsaw: 20.062021, TR Warszawa/ATM Studio


What I Saw

3strs was an adaptation of Chekhov’s play that was more or less faithful to Chekhov’s dialogue with a few major departures; the most significant being Tuzenbach committing suicide rather than being killed in a duel as well as the elimination of any mention of Protopopov.  At the discussion the next day the actress who played Natasha quipped: “I think Natasha is having many love affairs, why mention just one!”  There was virtually no furniture and the space was almost more of a dance space.  The primary set pieces were an enormous wall of mylar mirror bisecting the space as well as another wall of wooden flats with the jacks facing us (as if we were seeing something backstage) which served as a projection screen throughout the production.

The first act was a meditative take on The Three Sisters with many characters saying their lines into the mirror as if speaking secrets to themselves.  I had recently seen the wonderful filming of Timofey Kulyabin’s production all in sign language from the Red Torch Theatre in the Golden Mask Festival which had such a rich context and was so specific, it took me an act to fully get into Perceval’s abstract take on the material.  I think what did it for me was Natasha’s coup de theatre entrance.  She entered through a big cloud of fog upstage wearing a Vegas showgirl outfit and spoke Ukranian in stark contrast to the rest of the company’s Polish.  She immediately cut through the meditative tone and brought a new energy to the piece.

While the first act was front lit with a continuous video of wheat fields, Act Two was backlit with a video of the ocean and the tone of the entire act was one of longing.  It was delicate and beautiful until Natasha once again cuts through the mood at the end of the act dressed in a business suit on her way to an important meeting (no mention of Protopopov).

The fire of Act Three is where the energy really changed.  The video on the wall was fire and the movement became a carnal orgy.  In many ways this is where the production really started to sing.  It became physical in a way that it was hard to imagine Chekhov being embodied, but the quiet, meditative longing of Acts One and Two had transformed into a kind of “end of the world” devil-may-care bacchanalia.  

The carnality continued in Act Four with Vershinin, who until this point had been in a wheelchair is now dragged across the floor rather than allowing him to leave.  Natasha walks across the stage armed with a fork she swats at people who are bothering her.  It’s reported to Irina that Tuzenbach has killed himself and the act ends with the characters exiting except for Vershinin with his final line “I think I should go now.”

At the talk back the next day, the actors spoke of Perceval’s process as being free-form and experimental.  The idea for Vershinin to be in a wheelchair came from a wheelchair being in the rehearsal hall and the actor getting in it and trying it out during an improv.  The whole production had an adventurous vibe to it.  It had less to do with precision and specific choices than a flow and energy and above all freedom.  In many ways it could not have been more different than the painstakingly precise Red Torch Theater production but I found the approach refreshing and almost more like a dance piece than a theatre piece.

-Rob Melrose

About the Artist

LUK PERCEVAL is a Flemish actor and director. After studying at the Koninklijk Vlaams Conservatorium in Antwerp, he began working as an actor with the Koninklijke Nederlandse Schouwburg (KNS). In 1984, together with Guy Joosten, he founded the Blauwe Maandag Compagnie (BMC) in Gent. In 1998, he became artistic director of Het Toneelhuis, a merger of the BMC in Gent and the KNS in Antwerp. Since 2005 he has directed mainly in Germany: first as resident director at Berlin’s Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, then as principal director of Thalia Theater in Hamburg (2009–2014). Since 2019, he has been an artist in residence at NTGent. His most important productions include: SCHLACHTEN! (Schauspiel Hamburg 1999), The Cherry Orchard (Schauspiel Hannover 2001), Dream of Autumn (Münchner Kammerspiele 2001), Das kalte Kind (Schaubühne Berlin 2002), Othello (Münchner Kammerspiele 2003), Tristan und Isolde (Staatsoper Stuttgart 2004). His recent productions include Zola Marathon (Ruhrtriennale, Thalia Theater, Hamburg 2017), Romeo and Juliet (BDT, St. Petersburg 2018), and the trilogy The Sorrows of Belgium (NTGent, 2019). In Poland, Luk Perceval’s plays have been presented as guest artists at international festivals in Gdansk, Cracow, Poznan, Torun, Warsaw and Wroclaw. So far, audiences in Poland have had the opportunity to see 10 of his productions: Dream of Autumn (2nd International Theatre Festival DIALOG-WROCLAW 2003), Uncle Vanya (3rd International Theatre Festival DIALOG-WROCLAW 2005), Othello (10th Shakespeare Festival, Gdansk 2006), Andromacha (II Intermedia Theatre Forum baz@rt, Cracow 2005), Death of a Salesman (17th International Theatre Festival Contact, Torun 2007), Penthesilea (I International Theatre Festival Warszawa Centralna, 2008), Troilus and Cressida (V International Theatre Festival DIALOG-WROCLAW, 2009), The Truth about the Kennedys (Malta Festival Poznan 2010), Hamlet (16th Shakespeare Festival, Gdansk 2012) and Macbeth (19th Shakespeare Festival, Gdansk 2015). 3STRS in TR Warszawa and The Helena Modrzejewska National Stary Theatre in Cracow is first work of Luk Perceval realized with a Polish theatre company.

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