The Moscow Arts Theatre first produced Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters in 1901 in a production co-directed by legendary theatre practitioner Constantin Stanislavsky with Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. Though it received a mixed response at the time, its stature has grown throughout the twentieth-century and it is now regarded as a major part of the theatrical canon.
The play charts the lives and ambitions of the well-heeled Prozorovs stranded in a provincial backwater after the death of their father, an army general. The three sisters: Olga, Masha, Irina and their brother, Andrey, were brought up in the refined and cultured environment of Moscow and long to return there as a place where they believe happiness is possible. Over four moving acts, the siblings struggle with unhappy marriages, tempestuous love affairs, unsatisfying jobs, unwanted marriage proposals and a desperate fire that ravages the town, all of which see their hope of returning to Moscow recede further out of sight. The symbol of Moscow represents the family’s impossible dreams for a perfect life, unexamined and untested. Instead, they become mired in a desperate search for meaning amidst the chaos of their lives and come face to face with the reality of poverty and the decay of the privileged classes.
There have been countless revivals of Three Sisters since its first production. Nicholas Wright’s version was premiered at the National Theatre in London in 2003.