Three Sisters

Written by Anton Chekhov (translated by Ronald Hingley)

Thursday 3rd December to Saturday 5th December and Thursday 10th December to Saturday 12th December 1981

Directed by John Scadding

"The General is dead. He's been dead a year. Now would seem to be the time with the fine Spring weather to sell up the house and go back to Moscow. But the General is dead you see and it was always the General."

Olga, Masha, and Irina are refined and cultured young women in their twenties who were raised in urban Moscow but have been living in a small, colourless provincial town for eleven years. With their father dead, their anticipated return to Moscow comes to represent their hopes for living a good life, while the ordinariness of day-to-day living tightens its hold.

AuthorAnton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov (1860 - 1904)

Born in Southern Russia of humble origin, Chekhov studied Medicine at Moscow University, and while there, in order to support his family, he turned to writing. He graduated in 1884 and shortly after leaving turned to drama, although he was to continue to practise medicine for the rest of his life. The production of the Moscow Arts Theatre of his play 'The Seagull' in 1898 was the first to achieve the delicate balance of tragedy and comedy which is Chekhov's most individual contribution to drama. However, his originality also consists in an early use of the stream-of-consciousness technique, combined with a disavowal of the moral finality of traditional story structure. Another revolutionary quality in Chekhov's work was that his plays were written for a team of actors rather than for one or two star principals and supporting cast.

TranslatorRonald Hingley

Ronald Hingley (1920 - 2010)

Ronald Hingley produced his acclaimed translation of Chekhov's stories in the 1960s and rose to become Emeritus Professor at St Antony's College, Oxford. He was praised, in particular, for the attention he paid to colloquial speech, reflecting Chekhov's ability to capture all facets of Russian society. Inspired in his boyhood to learn Russian after reading the Catherine Garnett translation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's 'The Brothers Karamazov', Ronald Hingley later devoted his life to the study of Russian literature and political history. Hingley described himself as "a teacher by trade and an academic not a professional author." Although his scholarly activity has embraced literary criticism, translation, political analysis, and the examination of broad literary trends, Hingley's biographical work is perhaps most worthy of note. His major effort in biography, and certainly his best-known work, is 'A New Life of Anton Chekhov' (1976) and he was the foremost translator of Chekhov's plays.

PlayThree Sisters

'Three Sisters' was the first play that Chekhov wrote specifically for the Moscow Art Theatre, having experienced commercial success in his previous collaborations with the company, 'The Seagull' and 'Uncle Vanya'. It was written in 1900, first produced in 1901, and is about the decay of the privileged class in Russia and the search for meaning in the modern world. It describes the lives and aspirations of the Prozorov family, the three sisters (Olga, Masha, and Irina) and their brother Andrei.

They are a family dissatisfied and frustrated with their present existence. The sisters are refined and cultured young women who grew up in urban Moscow; however for the past eleven years they have been living in a small provincial town. Chekhov's initial inspiration was the general life-story of the three Bronte sisters, i.e., their refinement in the midst of provincial isolation and their disappointment in the expectations they had of their brother Branwell.

The Bench Production

Three Sisters poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


OlgaJacquie Penrose
MashaNicola Scadding
IrinaJo German
AndreyRoger Thurling
Lt Col VershininChris Hall
Capt SolyonyDavid Urquhart
Dr ChebutykinRay Osborne
Lt Baron TuzenbakhDavid Roberts
Second Lt FedotikSteve Jupp
Second Lt RodeBrian Smith
KulyginDerek Cusdin
FerapontKeith Cobbold
NatashaIngrid Corrigan
AnfisaRobbie Cattermole
MaidKaren Cartwright


Director John Scadding
Stage Manager Sylvia Brierly
Assistant Stage Manager Karen Cartwright
Lighting Jon Philpott
Anthony Elliott
Sound Tony Czapp
Costumes Robbie Cattermole
Jacquie Penrose
Mavis Parfitt
Poster Design David Penrose
Programme Design Nicola Scadding
Set Construction Jim Charlton

Director's Notes

Following on from the Bench's last production - 'Sister George' - we have yet another set of infuriating women. This time they are a bit more up market than those from the BBC but nevertheless they are just as self-centred and downright annoying and in need of a whack. They are stuck. They must change. Good plays seems to deal with this - the struggle to change or the struggle to resist change. The play this evening is full of men and women changing or not changing. The struggle is our play. We hope you enjoy it.

John Scadding


The News G.S.

Bench wins struggle

Never having been a fan of Anton Chekhov, I approached the Bench Theatre's production of 'The Three Sisters' with limited enthusiasm. But last night's production at Havant Arts Centre kept the audience engrossed throughout. 'The Three Sisters' concerns the search for happiness in a Russian country town at the end of the last century. It is the story of a struggle. Will the three sisters and the characters who surround them ever find the happiness they are seeking? They search for it in love, in work, in every precious second of the day. But as soon as they believe it, they become disillusioned. Love, which flings itself at them, teases and torments, for it is always just out of reach. Hard work fails to satisfy them.

The audience soon realises, even if these infuriating, Russian characters do not, that they will never find the pleasure they seek in the world around them until they have found it in themselves. As the director (John Scadding) said: "The characters must change. the play is full of men and women changing or not changing. The struggle is our play". It would of course be spoil-sporting of me to say whether they win the fight. Will Lieutenant Colonel Veshinin realize that happiness is not reserved for a future generation? Will Kulgin the schoolmaster stop grovelling to his wife - and everyone else? Will the three sisters and their brother ever reach Moscow which represents their dream?

Ironically it is the least likely character of all who announces: 'I sometimes think I am the happiest woman in the world. The calibre of the acting can be describes as excellent in some cases. This applies to all three sisters (Jacquie Penrose, Nicola Scadding and Jo German) and to Dr Chebutykin (Ray Osborne), who gave an incredible performances as a drunk, bitterly depressed doctor during the third act. One criticism I would make was the way many appeared to stand or sit around just waiting for their cue in the earlier part of the play. A little more reaction would have added polish to a fine evening's entertainment.

The News, 4th December 1981

Production Photographs