All images by Željko Stevanić
Authors of translation and adaptation Maruša Kink and the team
Director Maruša Kink
Dramaturg Nika Leskovšek
Set designers Tina Bonča, Maruša Kink and the team
Costume designer Tina Bonča
izr. prof. mag. Tomislav Janežič
doc. mag. Jasna Vastl
What I Saw
The location is a former casino’s (now salon of applied arts) first floor. I cannot imagine whether it is a used space or not, as it is not exactly clear what is the set of the performance and what is furniture left over in this huge, unheated area. Rugs, endless amount of chairs, coffee tables, parts of an office setup, etc. Old furniture and environment makes this space even more interesting – the huge windows that allow for an impressive look on the city add to this atmosphere. It is a found place for a performance that treats its dramatic base very similarly: as a found and forgotten text.
This Three Sisters is performed by six people altogether: three women and three men. They interchange roles with ease and a fun carelessness – does it matter if it's Solyony or Veshinin? Kuligin or Andrey? Natasha or Olga? Because this production treats the story as something that we are all to some certain familiar with (it is, if I'm not mistaken, an exam production, so the reflective playfulness regarding the pre-text is quite understandable), and plays exactly with the idea of staging the play itself. It starts rather leisurely, with the first Chehkovian act being the longest and performed at its fullest, although sometimes different scenes are mounted one on the other – for example, while Masha and Vershinin talk, just a few steps behind them, Tuzenbach and Irina are also chatting about something. They do their lines casually, with as little acting as possible: the characters become closely interwoven with the performers, while it is also always very clear that they are performing and not becoming the characters. This creates a relaxed environment: this Three Sisters seems much more like a place where we all hang out, rather than a performance that we all watch.
For the second Checkhovian act, we are asked to move and sit in another part of the same place. While the first setting looked more like a clustered office room with a view on the city, this space feels like a foyer or a salon: a longish space in an L shape, it has a few coffee tables, chairs and a piano. The second act is performed in the same manner, cut short and with scenes sometimes built on each other, it is dominated by a strict and obnoxious Natasha. The first scene featured a guitar-playing Andrey, this one has him playing the violin and sometimes the piano – but the music is rather spontaneously inserted into the scenes, unless it is Sigur Ros's Fjogur Piano, played on an iPhone placed in an empty glass for better audio. It sometimes feels as if parts of the rehearsals remained forgotten in the final version or as if we were watching the rehearsal itself, somewhere in the middle of the whole process. It is also obvious that this looseness is consciously constructed, as it creates an inviting structure in which creators do not intend to state but rather examine and attempt.
The pinnacle of the second scene comes with the re-imagination of the maskers: everyone, except Natasha, is sitting on a bench with a huge plastic animal masks on their heads, and chat about existential question regarding the future of humankind, the reason for intellect and the freedom of birds. Never did the empty philosophy of Three Sisters feel more contemporary and, at the same time, ridiculous.
The third act is retold by the three sisters sitting next to each other on chairs. Once again, the feeling of being at a rehearsal is present, although what we see does not feel rehearsed. It is, nonetheless, a quick run-through with small scenes acted out. It feels as if these actions were too surreal for our setting, as if they would have positioned these actions too much into the realms of theatre as an illusion. The actors strip the story of the illusion, by focusing on the fiction and on the elements that could be relatable in such a setting. This scene takes no more than ten minutes.
By this time, I am certain that there will be no last act. It is convenient that the dramaturgy should totally fall apart by the end of the performance – and I am right. The fourth act has all the actors, except for Natasha, go out on the balcony surrounding the building, smoking cigarettes, talking and winding down. Natasha has the whole space for herself. She picks up a bike and starts going round into the foyer. She talks, probably something out of the context of the original text, as this part is not translated at all, and she seems annoyed as she clumsily bikes around. We watch her for a long time: long enough for the character to kind of wash off of the actor. She starts cracking smiles that we’ve seen at the very beginning of the performance, she starts reflecting on her own clumsiness with the bike. It is subtle but present: while the others wind down outside, she exits her character in front of our faces and while still seemingly in role. This is also a time for the audience to settle down and exit the performance. Then she drops the bike and disappears. We start vaguely clapping, but no one comes back. It is no surprise: we have already find our ways out of the performance, no additional alarm clocks are needed.
Nuts and Bolts
Company Name: Margareta Schwarzwald Institute
Director(s) of Performance: Maruša Kink
Premiere: 30. 9. 2015, Cona 3, Ljubljana
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. No intermission.
Partners: Margareta Schwarzwald Institute and UL AGRFT
Cast Size: 6 (3 male, 3 female)
Touring size: Cast of 6, 2 tehnicians, 2 escorts (10 total)
Stage Size: It is site specific, does not need a stage
Load in time: 8 hours
Strike time: 1 hour
Cartage information: The whole set fits in two suitcases
Translation options: Subtitles
Touring history: Slovenian National Theatre Festival Borštnikovo srečanje
Future performance dates: TESZT, Timisoara, 22.5.2017 TeaterTreffen, Hannover, 8.-16. 6. 2017
Available for touring from: 1/3/2017
Representation: Mija Špiler, producer, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0038641852516
Synopsis: When there is no real life, one lives out of a mirage. (A. P. Chekhov)
Chekhov is everywhere. This year in particular. On stages. At home and abroad. Moreover, he has always been present in ineffably small everyday things. In the lingering on and in the yearning. The production sets out to explore the question of what is the interest of our present time in a play that is based on time. In what way does a play inhabit time and in what way does time inhabit a play. The irony lies in the fact that, in spite of our temporal acceleration, there is increasingly less time left to us. We don’t even take that much time to sit at the railway station, if for no other reason than to watch life passing by us. We simply linger on in this time and space although we constantly yearn to go someplace else. Until we are sometimes simply chased away. Although: "There is no happiness, neither here nor there.”
A play for our present time, whose timespan from the beginning to the end is truly small. With a few characters and even fewer actors. A play that will endure. Until we are gone.
Reviews: "As soon as you walk in the difference of approach and rightness of setting really hits you. The audience are very much *in the same space and time* as the performers. When the performers smoke (constantly, and real cigarettes too, thank fuck) we breathe their smoke. When they boil a saucepan of coffee, they share the spare cups with the audience. They both are and clearly are not their characters. The theatrical transaction itself couldn’t be handled with more simplicity. The surtitles are projected willy-nilly onto whatever wallspace they can find and the performers move the projector about to sort them out. The costumes are modern dress, and are absolutely spot-on." -Andrew Haydon
Maruša Kink: Kink first studied acting at Academy for Theatre, Radio, Film and Television Ljubljana and was awarded with a Sever award for young actors. Later she undertook theatre directing at the same academy. She directed several works for youngsters, two of them were awarded with the title "Qality Performance" at the Slovenian National Festival for Children and Youth "The Golden Stick". The Three Sisters is her MA project, which was also included in Slovenian National Theatre Festival Borštnikovo Srečanje. Kink is also an artistic director of the Margareta Schwarzwad Institute, a small theatre company that produces theatre performances and live events.
Mija Špiler earned a Bachelor of Economics with the status of self-employed in culture. As a producer and co-participant in numerous art and other projects, last year she mainly operates within the Institute Margareta Schwarzwald, whose co-founder is occasionally also involved in selected projects producers and other links with institutions (SNG Drama Ljubljana, Cankarjev dom Ptuj City Theater). She has a lot of experience with the design, concept and implementation of the entire theater productions and other projects. Theater projects in which it participated, were admitted to the competition and accompanying programs of the biggest Slovenian theater festivals.
Reflections from Panna
The most striking thing about Maruša Kink’s Three Sisters lies in the theatrical language it uses to retell one of the most known stories in theatre history. Instead of reaching for a monumental directorial re-reading or aiming for a highly conceptualised version that would overwrite all previous and possible version of Three Sisters, it offers a light-hearted and fun way of understanding our classics. The actual text disappears along the way, with the last act being nothing more than someone cycling around the space – this seemingly lazy interpretation is fitting for a newer generation that is less and less interested in the great meanings of the great works written by the great authors, but it is also a liberating way of re-reading Chekhov by letting go of the text.
I wonder if this is a fun play to watch for someone who doesn’t know the original – what would they think of it? One thing is certain: the graceful and inornate acting, the lack of technical tools and the natural light make for an ambience that is probably relatable for anyone entering this space. If nothing else, this is utterly charming to watch: it is very rare to be in theatre and feel as welcome as if you were home in your own bedroom.