3 Winters (Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre), London.
For most of us, Croatia is a little known quantity other than its involvement as part of the bloodiest, most destructive war on European soil since World War Two. Tena Štivičić though has made something memorably epic and personal in her new play that covers three generations in Zagreb over a period of seventy years.
Chekhovian in atmosphere, and flitting backwards and forwards between 1945 and 2011, in the hands of Howard Davies, the master of east European/Russian political and family plays, Štivičić’s bright, funny dialogue also becomes an illuminating, profoundly engaging comment on issues relevant for us here, to do with ethics and values. Whom does a house belong to? Does continuity endow that family with unalienable ownership?
All of this and more emerges in the two and half hours in which Davies includes desperate news videos of the break-up of the old Yugoslavia as a backdrop to the everyday skirmishes between members of the Kos family, arguing about feminism and lifestyles amongst recriminations about past loyalties with the Nazi leaning Ustashe in WW11, the Communists or Croatia’s recent entry into the EU.
If occasionally confusing in its time-shifting, Štivičić’s device ultimately reaps a rich reward in a production that looks back, as through a telescope, at a moment caught in time and its consequences.
There’s a wonderful sense of longevity too in a play, written by a woman playwright, which for once puts the female experience in the spotlight. Siobhan Finneran’s Masha Kos is a stalwart of a mother who nonetheless sees her family coming apart at the seams. The final showdown between her daughters, Jodie McNee’s London based Alisa and the seemingly easy-going Lucia whose wedding has brought the family members together, beautifully poses pragmatic, free market `adaptability’ against sentimental but humane values.
But there are many outstanding moments in Davies’ fine ensemble, not least in James Laurenson’s moving account of his 45 year guilt at having to abandon the horse who saved his life in 1945. Just one instance among many this play brings to life of ordinary people caught up in the tide of history and making their own.
First published on Reviewsgate website, Dec 2014