DramaDrama SchoolNorth WestReview

3 Winters – Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts

Writer: Tena Štivičić
Director: Stephen C Buckwald
Reviewer: John Roberts


Tena Štivičić’s play may not be the most easily accessible (some production notes really wouldn’t go amiss here), especially if you are not aware of modern Croatian history; however,3 Winters is more than a history play. It may have an undercurrent of politics but Štivičić’s brutally honest play is more a gritty family drama that flits forwards and backwards through an epic 70-year time span.

In Zagreb, the household of the Kos family is scrutinised in three separate, yet every crucial, time periods (1945, 1990 and 2011) where the need for the family to survive in an ever-changing political landscape is paramount.

In 1945, Rose (Joelle Brabben), her husband Aleksander (Jonah York), mother (Karen Young) and newly born daughter, Masha, move into a partitioned home at the time of Tito and the Partisan victory. By 1990, at the very moment Croatia and Slovenia leave and break up the Yugoslavian communist regime, Masha is still living in the home with her historian husband, Vlado (Michael Lorsong) alongside their own daughters Alisa and Lucija and in the final chapter of the family’s history, we then join the same family in 2011 on the eve of youngest daughter Lucia’s marriage to an unseen yet oft-mentioned business man of dubious quality as the country is on the brink of joining the European Union.

In Stephen C Buckwald’s powerful and intimate in-the-round production, there really is nowhere to hide for the young second year acting students from the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. It’s clear from the off that Buckwald has pushed aside any theatrical gimmick and drawn out rich and nuanced performances from his cast, which is arguably one of the strongest set of ensemble performances this reviewer has ever seen from the Merseyside-based drama school. Likewise George Lewis’ simple but nicely drawn set design alongside Molly Lacey Davies’ pitch perfect costume design lends a real air of authenticity to proceedings. Django Holder’s sound design could do with some refinement especially with the sound levels, but some finely picked musical underscores bring a filmic quality to the production. A shame, though, at times it is often disturbed by the over-loud tone of show’s deputy stage manager, who can be heard calling the shots a little too clearly at times.

The cast pulls out all the stops for this three-hourepic drama and handles the pace of Štivičić’s text beautifully – not since August Osage County at the National Theatre has this reviewer seen such commitment to the rhythm and intricacies of dialogue played out with such flair and pace. Lorsong gives a stoic performance as historian Vlado as he struggles to come to terms with modernity. Isabella Rubin comes into her own in the final third of the production with a compelling performance as bride-to-be Lucija. Brabben gives a beautifully drawn turn as new mother Rose but it is Lauren Waine as Alisa that really steals the show – this is a complex character that is detailed perfectly in a pristine and powerful performance from an actor that clearly has a promising careerin front of her.

3 Winters is a remarkable success for LIPA and one that everyone involved should be justifiably proud of.

Runs until 21May 2016 | Image: LIPA

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One Comment

  1. The first thing I said when we were leaving the Sennheiser was that this was the best production I’ve ever seen at LIPA – and it seems John Roberts was thinking along the same lines. I saw 3 Winters at the Lyttelton in early 2015 and I was looking forward to seeing how the piece worked in a completely different staging. I actually thought it was more powerful in the intimate Sennheiser in the round – but I did have the advantage of already knowing the play. I agree that the music was sometimes overpowering (a cinematic presentation is not what I look for) but I’d forgotten it until I read this review so it can’t have done much damage. Also a bit of the problem is the stifling heat in the auditorium – and the people who think it’s alright to spend half the performance waving their programmes in front of heir faces to the distraction of other audience members). But the performances were top notch and the technical side wasn’t far behind. Given that they had none of the Lyttelton’s magic equipment to deal with all those scene changes I thought it was remarkably smooth. I think there was something special about this particular project. I gathered from talking to an insider that they had invited Tena Štivicic to see the production but she couldn’t make it. That surely means they were confident and, in my opinion, the confidence was justified. Anyone with tickets for one of the remaining two performances has a treat in store. And if you’re local it’s worth turning up 30 minutes beforehand to see about returns – there were half a dozen empty seats last night despite the ‘sold out’ notices. As John Roberts suggests, a basic knowledge of Croation history is an advantage. If you don’t have time to read up, take a few minutes to read the material on display near the entrance to the Sennheiser.

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