Thursday, 17 September 2015

Review The Etienne Sisters

The Etienne Sisters
by Ché Walker 

Sibling Symphony

We've come a long way from when Anton Chekhov wrote "The Three Sisters"  - a few world wars, a Cold War and now it's difficult to decipher what's a civil war, what's a world war and what's a computer game with every fatal, maiming or displacing consequence.

It may be a plus that The Etienne Sisters, a 90-minute, no-interval three-hander, written and directed by Ché Walker with songs by Annoushka Lucas and Sheila Atim,  planted this thought in the mind of TLT and her getaway car. 

On the other hand, there were times when this "play with songs" reminded them of the Scottish island fishing expeditions which had taken on a prominent role by the final scene. 

Three "griefed up" sisters, Bo (Allyson Ava-Brown), Tree (Nina Toussaint-White) and Ree (Jennifer Saayeng), all sharing the same father (presumably with eponymous Francophone Etienne name), come together for the funeral of their mother and stepmother. 

Opening credits rolling on back wall projections as pianist (Nikki Yeoh) plays with a classical flourish may give us a clue this isn't just a family history but ambitiously attempts to put a perspective on TV, film, literature and music as a whole.  And maybe war, politics, economics, technology and history itself.

Half sister Bo is a trickster, fleeing a drug gang boss with the surname of a French movie director of gangster movies (!!!).

Bo  disrupts the cooperative unity of supermarket checkout "girl" Tree, also apparently given responsibility for delivering store cash, and her dependent sister Ree.

The three actors discharge their roles and songs with aplomb but in the end the throwing in of disparate narrated plot threads in mainly static monologues proved underwhelming and lacked compelling pace. 

Maybe the piece, with its attempt at a playful dissection of drama and history, falls victim to the very forms it discusses - for it turned into a telegraphed predictable soap alternating with episodes from what felt like a different play.

And despite evocative set, lighting and video design by Ti Green, Arnim Friess and Louis Price respectively, TLT and her motorised steed did wonder whether it would have worked better in a smaller space and even as an entirely sung-through piece.  While it feels like a flawed work in progress, an amber light for its ambition, ideas and performances.

Tickets to The Etienne Sisters 
courtesy of 

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