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