I've written a version of Chekhov's Three Sisters for schools. Why the hell have you done that, Dan? Well, the immediate spur was my wife, Lilla, who is a teacher, wanting to direct a straight play at her school. I suggested Three Sisters and once we'd looked again at the play and thought about her school which stops at GCSE, she thought the play needed to be adapted. So I volunteered to do it.
It's been an interesting exercise and not one I've undertaken lightly. I love this play. But it took me a while to see what the fuss was about. In fact it was only when I saw the Gate Theatre production that came to the Royal Court in 1989 that it all lit up for me. The production featured the three Cusack sisters (Sinead, Sorcha and Niamh) alongside their father - and my strong impression was that they weren't getting on; this may have just been terrific acting, but they seemed to be irritated being on stage together, occasionally upstaging one another, and generally coming across a rather dislikeable. And so of course the whole play came alive. Once you realise that Chekhov's characters aren't there to be liked, the play opens right up. (I'd recently seen two production of The Cherry Orchard, one with Ranevskaya played by national treasure Judi Dench and another where she was played by Thelma Barlow (aka Mavis Riley off Coronation Street, in neither case was there any room to have anything other than sympathetic pity for the protagonist's plight.) Once you get that the play's gaze on its characters may be critical, even satirical, the plays become funnier, more politically robust, and the moments of pathos much smarter and harder-won.
So I've written a version that tries to clarify and emphasise those elements. It emphasises the humour; it moves a little more quickly than the original; the emotions are, I hope, not oversimplifies but their outlines are clearer and sharper, perhaps easier for a teenage cast and audience to grasp. I've made the decision to keep it in period, roughly. I have no problem whatever with radical updates (like Benedict Andrews's brilliant version for the Young Vic [pictured above]), but in this instance I wanted to retain a sense of the play in period for the cast. They might find ways to update it through the design anyway. But I've tried to de-cobweb the language so it feels like these are people we know speaking to us. There are a couple of swears, but these can be modified.
Anyway, any teachers looking to do a great classic play with some really great parts for girls, you might like to give this a read. No charge for use but do let me know if it's happening. Download it here.