Three Sisters: the Tron Ambassadors review…

L-R Jessica Hardwick, Martin McCormick, Three Sisters, Credit John JohnstonWe’ve been lucky to enjoy three almost sold out weeks of our newest in-house production, Three Sisters– The reviews have poured in and have been universally fantastic. But this week, for a slightly different view, we invited our Tron Ambassadors along to tell us what they thought of John Byrne’s latest Chekhov adaptation.

The Tron Ambassadors Review… Three Sisters

REBECCA BELL

John Byrne’s comic twist on Chekhov’s ‘The Three Sisters’ told the famous play in a refreshing format yet still kept to the tragedy and heartbreak faced by the unfortunate Penhalligan family and their dearest friends.

Fantastically casted, all actors involved in ‘The Three Sisters’ delivered the perfect amount of comedy, drama and emotion. The settler Olive, the sceptical Maddy and the vivacious Renee portrayed the three sisters fantastically – displaying three very different women with, at times, such contrasting personalities but who still managed to retain the similarities and bond of the three sisters they were playing. This created a flawless, believable and naturalistic performance. Sylvester McCoy’s portrayal of the lovable – alcoholic Doc lifted the audience’s spirits even at the saddest of times – creating, despite his age, an energetic and charismatic character.

Stylised from the very onset of the play, every scene change and use of lighting was executed fantastically throughout the entirety of the production creating the perfect atmosphere to tell the story of the Penhalligan’s misfortunes and desire to return to their native London.

The set used in the play was simplistic yet stylish and created a beautiful background for the emotional ending of the story – engulfing the viewers into the crisp autumn day it was set in. The slightly small stage was never made apparent to the audience as the space was used brilliantly convincing the viewer that they really were in the huge Penhalligan household. With such realistic costumes and settings you really felt as if you were in a time warp sending you far back into the 1960’s.

One critique to be made is that by the end of the second half there were some moments that felt like they may not have necessarily been needed – by cutting them out, the play would have flowed and ended more smoothly.

Despite the unhappy, worn-down lives the play depicts it somehow manages to be such a lively, energetic production through its wonderful, linguistic cast and stylish yet realistic settings.

The three sisters may face torment throughout the play but viewing their journey is by far the opposite.

 


MARTIN FLETCHER

****

John Byrne’s modern adaption of Chekov’s “The Three Sisters” set in 1960’s Dunoon was an interesting play, engaging with audience at just about the right level to leave them thinking. The play focuses in on the lives and interactions of three sisters: Olive the eldest sister who is more or less a mother figure throughout the play, Maddy the middle sister who was quite originally thought to be quite uptight but you warm up to her and feel sorry for her as the story progresses and Renee the youngest sister who started off young and innocent but became more sad as the play went on.

To start with the lighting of the play was absolutely fantastic. It seemed to make the audience follow what was happening and make us focus on the different parts of the stage when they wanted us to. It also added to the ferocity of the fire in act three as it seemed to absorb the stage and audience in what felt like the embers of a fire.

Moving on to the sound it added so much to the overall atmosphere to the play. For example the sounds of the fire engine moving away from the stage really helped make the audience feel there was more than just the house there but that was all that we could see. Although there was a few muck ups with the sound queues, like when Archie was on stage but the sounds of him playing the violin seemed to overlap. Otherwise the sound seemed to heighten the mood of the audience.

It was a very good production overall. Even if there were a few small hiccups here and there it didn’t take away from the whole performance. I believe it was very well done, all the actors were brilliant but it just seemed a bit long in my opinion but I suppose it was a classic play and it was probably written as such to make sure the adaptation worked, which it did.

 


ROSY HOWITT

John Byrne’s production of the Three Sister’s is a wonderful take on a classic!

The play was originally written by the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, however in John Byrne’s adaptation it has been given a modern Scottish twist which is very intriguing for its viewers. It is set in the 1960’s in Dunoon, and the story is based on three sisters– Olive, Maddy, and Renee. The play opens with them reminiscing about their father’s funeral that happened a year earlier. After moving from their home town of London to Scotland for their fathers work in the Royal Navy fleet, the sisters feel out of place after his death. The play follows the women through the years and we can see all aspects of their lives, from their work to their relationships, both develop and rot.

The set provides an eye catching and effective use of space and it is clear that a lot of attention went into the details, even to considerably small aspects of the set such as a picture frame. The set also allowed for the unique use of lighting, which was very imaginative, especially in the fire scene.  There were many touching moments and brilliant acting from the whole cast, Jessica Hardwick in particular in her portrayal of Renee. Despite the drama within the lives of the sisters, there were also many laughs, many stemming from Dr MacGilivery who was played by the wonderful Sylvester McCoy.

The variety of entrances and exits also meant that there was a lot of movement, which was directed so flawlessly by Andy Arnold that it came across as being very natural. However it was also quite distracting at times and made it difficult to focus.

The audience becomes much entangled with all the relationships, emotions and heartbreaks within the play that it’s a spellbinding few hours. Overall the play was very well done in all aspects and definitely a show not to miss!

 


NIAMH MARTIN-MCGARRIGLE

Tron Theatre’s ‘Three Sisters’ is a great piece of theatre- if you don’t mind leaving after two hours feeling a little drained with a bleak outlook on life.

The performance told the story of three sisters, Olive, Maddy and Renee, who lived in Dunoon yet wished to return to their home in London. As the play progresses, the characters gradually lose hope of ever returning to London,an aspect which is cleverly reflected in the increasing greyscale of costume and makeup, as well as in the characters’ lines.

My first impression was that the multi-levelled set and lighting were impressive, and I hoped that it wouldn’t overshadow the acting. It didn’t. All actors embodied their characters well, capturing each unique personality- Dr MacGillivery (Sylvester McCoy) particularly captured the audience with his quirks and humorous remarks. The scene and costume changes were very slick, and collaborated well with the dream-like state and poetic word structure at the very beginning.

However, the energy began to fizzle out as the play took a more melancholic tone, and the plot seemed to only loosely affect the characters without much literal portrayal. The audience lost interest as the general storyline began to repeat itself, only with different characters and slightly adjusted circumstances. I hate to say it, but despite all the wonderful production, the play was a little…depressing.

All in all, ‘Three Sisters’ is perfect- for a very specific audience. The set/soundtrack/lighting-lovers, the aspiring poets and perhaps the next pessimistic philosopher who theorises about the pointlessness of existence, would all be people I’d recommend a ticket to. As for the general public, it’s not exactly a light-hearted comedy, and it doesn’t have song-and-dance numbers that’ll get you on your feet. This show will give the harsh reality of life, and you probably won’t leave feeling overjoyed, but ‘Three Sisters’ is definitely worth a view, if not for the technical aspects and execution alone.

 


SOPHIE PARKE

The Three Sisters play was not written by a cheerful man. While poignant and touching, playwright Anton Chekhov’s black outlook on life still seeps through, leaving the audience reeling. However, John Byrne’s adaptation of the Three Sisters is also infused with lightness and comedy.

The Penhalligans are London-born aristocrats, scathing of their new settlement in sixties naval Dunoon. We become emotionally involved with the three sisters of the family: Renee, enthusiastic and fanciful, the sobering effect of darkly witty Maddy, fringed with sarcasm, and affectionate spinster Olive. Set over five years, the fluid passing of time sees buoyant spirits, friendships, affairs, rage and heartbreak.

With a chipper, hardworking attitude, a Disney princess is what Renee initially reminded me of – half expecting her to burst into song, I didn’t expect the immense character development that occurs. Quietly losing her optimistic naivety, Renee becomes multi faceted as a character, marking out Jessica Hardwick’s acting prowess.

Also to note, Sylvester McCoy, playing Doctor MacGillvery, was so believable and endearing that throughout his performance he quite literally elicited coos from the audience.

The beautiful chaos of the Penhalligan family is captured by layering: running, dancing, shouting, music playing, laughing… all showing them in their element. Contrasting, quiet dialogue to the swell of an atmospheric soundtrack, the flickering of characters in and out of doors… Bravo indeed, to director Andy Arnold.

At first I felt that Louise McCarthy’s melodramatic portrayal of Natasha was too much, especially when surrounded by characters that were all strong their own rights. However, that’s exactly what the character is designed to be, an almost panto-like performance is crucial to diluting of the rest of the play’s morbidity. In sharp contrast to providing much of the comic relief, darker manipulative ways surface, serving to shock the audience as Natasha has tricked them as much as she had the Penhalligan family.

It’s worth braving the emotional devastation for the beauty and humour wrapped up into this touching adaptation of the Three Sisters.

 

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Three Sisters: production photos

One of the final jobs of the Marketing department before a Tron show opens is to organise production photography.

This usually takes place during one of the final dress rehearsals, so everything on-stage looks as close to how it will look on opening night as possible. Our brilliant production photographer, John Johnston, often doesn’t get a chance to see the show before he photographs it, so has to rely on impeccable photographer instincts to find the best shots, that catch all of the actors at their best in their roles and captures the drama and emotion of the show.

John Byrne designed the costumes and the set for Three Sisters– you can see how our very talented wardrobe department transformed John’s original concepts (seen in the previous post here) into costumes for our wonderful cast:

L-R Sally Reid, Jonathan Watson, Sylvester McCoy, Andy Clark, Three Sisters, Credit John Johnston L-R Sally Reid, Jessica Hardwick, Muireann Kelly, Three Sisters, Credit John Johnston L-R Muireann Kelly, Louise McCarthy, Three Sisters, Credit John Johnston L-R Martin McCormick, Steven Clyde, Sally Reid, Sylvester McCoy, Three Sisters, Credit John Johston
L-R Jonathan Watson, Louise McCarthy, Three Sisters, Credit John Johnston L-R Jessica Hardwick, Sylvester McCoy, Euan Donald, Three Sisters, Credit John Johnston L-R Jessica Hardwick, Martin McCormick, Three Sisters, Credit John Johnston L-R Andy Clark, Martin McCormick, Three Sisters, Credit John Johnston
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Interview with writer of Three Sisters, John Byrne

The Tron’s Drama Officer, Deborah McArthur, sat down with writer and designer John Byrne to discuss Three Sisters and his approach to writing.

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Three Sisters rehearsal blog: week 2

Three Sisters‘ Assistant Director Beth Morton catches us up with where rehearsals for the show are at at the end of week 2.

We’ve made lots of progress with the play this week and it’s taking a great shape. Act 1 is quite heavy with a lot of exposition, but we’re working hard to create some moments of light relief with the characters of Dorbie and Carnalachie to break this up a bit. We’ll keep looking at this as rehearsals go on though, because we don’t want it to be too slapstick.

Director Andy Arnold and the Three Sisters cast in the rehearsal room

Director Andy Arnold and the Three Sisters cast in the rehearsal room

On Tuesday we continued working on Act 2. It’s quite complicated compared to the first act in terms of making sense of the text and juggling the many different significant conversations that take place between the main characters. This meant that we had to work through each page of the script quite slowly but we ended the day with a basic shape that makes sense for us to come back to. As a company we tried to get to grips with what the stylised look of the play would be exactly and now all have a good idea of this to take forward into next week when we start looking at the play again from the top in more detail.

Wednesday saw us run Act 1 & 2 together in full without stopping so we could get an idea what the running time would be and, more importantly at this point, see what it looked like altogether and if there were any parts of the basic blocking that needed to be reworked. Everyone felt the run went really well for the first time we had done it and that it was looking good. We spent the rest of the afternoon working the scene where Doctor MacGillivery gets a bit of a party going. As Sylvester can play the spoons we had been looking for a place to work this into the play and, having found the perfect moment, we went back to choreograph and block this scene properly to some rehearsal music.

For the last few hours on Friday we were able to start blocking Act 4 and managed to get quite a way through it. All in all we are in good shape for the middle of the rehearsal period and, now that we’ve blocked the entire play, we can really see the character and relationship arcs growing throughout the play. Getting to the end of the play this week has allowed us to see clear time passing between each Act and be able to compare the character dynamics in the very beginning of the play to how they are left at the very end.

 

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John Byrne’s costume designs for Three Sisters

Not only has John Byrne written our new version of Three Sisters, but he’s been involved in all aspects of the design process as well.

Here’s a selection of some of his design concept drawings for the characters in Three Sisters. The drawings are being used by our wardrobe department as they source and make the costumes, and also for the actors in the rehearsal room, helping them to get into character.

Click on a thumbnail below to see a larger version of the image. You can’t miss the distinctive John Byrne style!

Renee, Dorbie and Carnalachie

Olive

Natasha
McShane maloney Maddy and McCool Fairbairn
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John Byrne does Chekhov!

Wow, it’s been so mad round here over the summer, can hardly believe we’re straight back into rehearsals for our next big in-house show, Three Sisters!

Three Sisters is a classic of Russian literature, penned by the great Anton Chekhov at the turn of the last century. However– although outer Siberia and Glasgow in October may have a lot of things in common– we wanted to bring the tale even closer to home, so our latest production of the Chekhovian classic will be based on the script as adapted by acclaimed Scottish artist and writer, John Byrne.

You know John Byrne; he’s responsible for these icons of Scottish culture:

Tutti Frutti- John Byrne The Slab Boys- John Byrne Your Cheatin' Heart- John Byrne

And he’s no stranger to Chekhov, having also adapted Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard.

Oh, and we’re really excited that John’s not only penned the script, but is designing the costumes and sets for the show, along with our lovely poster artwork:

Three Sisters- John Byrne  

 

John’s poster for Three Sisters,
featuring our lead actors (clockwise from left) :
Muireann Kelly as Olive,
Jessica Hardwick as Renee and
Sally Reid as Maddy

Check back here every week for more updates on Three Sisters, and there’s even more going on over on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Dasvidaniya!

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Home Nations festival rehearsals: week 1

Although we’ve been working on it for months and months, last week was when we finally realised just how soon our Home Nations Festival kicks off, as three (of our four) hard-working creative teams arrived at Tron Towers for the traditional pre-production meet and greet, cramming into our Vic Bar to say hi, have a catch up and nick a cup of tea and a biccie before sloping off to begin rehearsals on Edwin Morgan’s Dreams & other Nightmares, Beowulf and Under Milk Wood.

If we haven’t talked about it enough, our Home Nations festival includes four main productions, all taking place between 17 July- 3 Aug, which means for the next three weeks every space in our building is being given over to rehearsals, costume fittings, set builds—not to mention the normal manic panic in the admin office! It’s definitely the most exciting time to be in the theatre, but it’s also more than a little bit stressy. We’re getting through an awful lot of cake right now.

Our community company working on Under Milk Wood have been rehearsing since the beginning of the year, so they’re on the final strait now, getting ready to go on the Tron stage. The set is starting to take shape, transforming Charlotte Lane’s model box (see below) into its full-size glory. You might have noticed, we’ve been putting calls out on our Facebook for a host of empty green and brown glass bottles to decorate the set: we need LOADS, so if you can help, Box Office would love to take your empty (clean!) glass bottles to add to our Under Milk Wood masterpiece!

Bottles for the Under Milk Wood set

Bottles being collected for the Under Milk Wood set

The Edwin Morgan rehearsal room is at a totally different stage. We’re re-staging the show (we first co-produced it back in 2011 with Glasgay!) so in the first week back our two returning cast members (Davy McKay and Steven Duffy) have been re-familiarising themselves with the script and getting to know Laurie Ventry, who’s coming on board this time round in the part of The Biographer. It’s always great to see how new actors can change the chemistry of a show, make scenes run differently, give whole interactions a totally different feel—but it still works. Magic of theatre and all that.

Steven Duffy, Davy McKay and Laurie Ventry in rehearsals

Steven Duffy, Davy McKay and Laurie Ventry in rehearsals

And in Beowulf rehearsals—aside from devouring whole packs of Tunnocks tea-cakes!— our three-woman company is working to bring Seamus Heaney’s poetic epic to life. Beowulf is a dramatic reading, with only minimal props and costumes, so much of the drama has to come directly from the performances. Luckily, we’ve got a brilliant cast, in the form of Lorraine McIntosh, Helen McAlpine and Anita Vettesse.

Anita Vetessee and Lorraine McIntosh in Beowulf rehersals

Anita Vetessee and Lorraine McIntosh in Beowulf rehersals

As well as rehearsals of course, all around the building we’re doing our final prep for Home Nations opening night. Invitations are being sent out; programmes for the shows are being designed and signed off; costumes are being created, fitted and adjusted; our new Best Of British menu is being finalised… Everything is all go!

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Home Nations Festival 2014- it’s almost kick-off!

Dylan Thomas. Seamus Heaney. Edwin Morgan. Liz Lochhead. Carol Ann Duffy. How’s that for a dream team?

Scotland might be going a bit sports-crazy this summer, but here at the Tron we’re busy gearing up for our very own contribution to the Commonwealth Festival 2014 programme, our Home Nations Festival!

The Home Nations Fest is all about celebrating some of the greatest poets and playwrights from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, and features (among much, much more!) three full-scale productions, a dramatic reading, new writing, live music, performance poetry… and basically more literary loveliness than you can shake a stick at!

Our four major new productions– representing the four corners of the British Isles– look a bit like this:

Under Milk Wood- Dylan Thomas (Wales)
Edwin Morgan’s Dreams and other Nightmares- Liz Lochhead (Scotland)
Beowulf- Seamus Heaney (Ireland)
Grimm Tales- Carol Ann Duffy (England)

See, something for everyone!

Next Monday we’re gearing up for the HUGE pre-Fest meet & greet with the cast and production teams from each of the four shows, so pop back then for all the chat and photos from the first day. In the meantime, check out each of our four main productions by clicking on their images below– and by the way, aren’t these lovely images? Courtesy of the design wizards over at Jamhot design (cheers guys!)

Under Milk Wood- Dylan Thomas Edwin Morgan's Dreams and Other Nightmares- Liz Lochhead
Beowulf- Seamus Heaney Grimm Tales- Carol Ann Duffy
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Macbeth: Tron Ambassadors take on the Scottish Play

With two new Tron Ambassadors recruited this September, what better start to their year with us than in at the deep end – with a reviewing workshop from Across the Arts editor and critic Michael Cox, and straight into that evening’s performance of Macbeth to put their newly-learnt reviewing skills into practice.

Emma Quinn talks us through how Rachel O’Riordan’s vision of the Shakespearean tragedy held up against her expectations of the well-loved Scottish Play:

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is the legendary story of a man following the instructions of the supernatural to kill the king and steal the crown of Scotland, and the series of bloody actions that follow.

Macbeth is portrayed by Keith Fleming, an incredible performance, with clear understanding and passion, though not fully provoking the sympathy for Macbeth that the audience should feel. Leila Crerar, the only female in the production, is Lady Macbeth, young, highly sexualised, but nonetheless very powerful.  However, I feel her portrayal was a little too innocent for the character, and while Crerar is undoubtedly a brilliant and very talented actress, I think Lady Macbeth isn’t quite the role for her.

Rachel O’Riordan’s concept is very clear: simple and not distracting from the acting.  The costumes consist of dark shirts, trousers and boots, with long military jackets for battle – hardly of the era but not desperately modern.  Kenny Miller’s set of a grey, medieval castle wall, and the rest, chairs and a table, lying on and around the acting area at all times, is dark, imposing and simply remarkable. This, coupled with the costumes, contrasts with the stark red of the plenteous amount of blood in the production, making it more shocking and harsh.  All in all, a great concept that worked extremely well.

The Three Weird Sisters are played by men who also double as Thanes and soldiers, and this aspect I found very interesting as well as impressive, as one minute the trio were upright and proper, the next, hunched over, disjointed beings, “not like th’ inhabitants o‘ th’ earth”. While I’m on the subject, I thought Richard Conlon’s performance in particular, both as a Weird Sister and the Thane of Ross, was impeccable, and, not to spoil anything, but I thought the ending was absolutely perfect.

Over the years there have been too many productions of the Scottish Play to count, but this is certainly not one to be missed.

****

Rachel Ross casts a critical eye over the production’s highs and lows, ‘battle ground to banquet hall’:

Shakespeare’s classic Macbeth is a story of which most are familiar, but to those who have yet to experience the bloody tale, Rachel O’Riordan’s production is a traditional piece of Scottish theatre.

The tale begins with a very Scottish fight scene – one filled with Glaswegian grunts and “arghs” – in which Macbeth fights loyally for his king and country (unbeknown to him, for the last time). Kenny Miller’s set creates an open, versatile basis for the play ranging from battle ground to banquet hall; a medieval castle wall with huge windows and candle light. Scene to scene transitions flow naturally, thanks to the subtle, atmospheric changes in lighting.

An exciting new element brought to this classic by O’Riordan was the portrayal of the Three Weird Sisters. Unexpectedly, the catalysts to the action are played by men who also fill the roles of Ross, Lennox and Caithness.  Shedding their long coats to reveal their strapped up, tortured bodies as each face morphed into a crude, grimaced expression created a thick air of tension.  This tension, however, was relieved immediately after the Witches had delivered their prophecies, as the actors skilfully and mysteriously slipped back into their disenchanted characters.

Encouraged by his young, ambitious wife, Keith Fleming fills the role of Macbeth as he is, to quote another famous work of Shakespeare, “hoist by his own petard”.  Although fluent in his speech and precise with his movements, Fleming seemed somewhat lacking in emotion. His protrayal of a man plummeting towards death did not seem totally convincing throughout.

Lady Macbeth, played by Leila Crerar, was the only woman in the cast. Lengthy speeches can easily become disengaging, but Crerar’s use of raw tone, weaving delicately between excited, sinister, manipulative and tortured added a whole new level of intensity to the character. During her famous sleepwalking scene, Crerar performed with clarity and conviction, and a single fresnel highlighted her, held by one of the witches who followed her like a vindictive shadow during the explicit, slanderous slumber.  This was another creative lighting effect which plunged the audience into her feeling of isolation.

Although lengthy in places, the majority of the play captivated the audience with gripping action and occasional comic relief – such as the drunken porter’s jokes as Macduff knocked at the gate!  The production lacked memorable original qualities (other than the explicit characterisation of Lady Macbeth), but shed new light on a classic tragedy, and, overall, provided an entertaining evening.

 

 

 

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Children’s classic Hairy Maclary arrives at the Tron

Nonsense Room Productions tell us a little of why they’re excited to bring their stage adaptation of children’s classic Hairy Maclary to Glasgow this autumn…

Nonsense Room are very much looking forward to our visit to the Tron at the end of September.  Most of the creative team behind the show all trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, RCS), so have very fond memories of our time in the city.  Indeed the company has it’s origins in a flat in the West End and two of our performers also trained, or are training, at the Royal Conservatoire.    Bruce Strachan, the shows Director, recently worked with some students from the RCS in the On the Verge festival – exploring new work in the Tron’s Changing house.  So it’s very much a ‘home’ performance!

Hairy Maclary himself has some good West Coast roots.  He is often listed in Scottish book shops under ‘Scottish Stories’, despite being a very proud Kiwi!  However, New Zealander Lynley Dodd’s father was Scottish – from Rutherglen – so he’s at least an honorary Scot.

It has been a really busy summer for Nonsense Room– now in it’s 11th year.  The phenomenal success of ‘The Hairy Maclary and Friends Show’ continues to grow.  This summer we have visited New Zealand for Hairy’s 30th birthday celebrations, had our 4th successful year at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and are about to embark on our third tour of the UK, starting at the Tron.  Also this December, the show returns to the Sydney Opera House after our 7 week run there in 2011/12.

Hairy Maclary is at the Tron on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th September 2013, and you can buy your tickets online or by calling box office on 0141 552 4267.

 

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