FROM playing the Doctor in Doctor Who to playing a doctor in Three Sisters, at the King’s Theatre this week, Sylvester McCoy must be experiencing a sense of deja vu, not least because his latest project is set in Dunoon, the town in which he was born and raised.
The touring production McCoy finds himself in is a re-imagining of the Chekhov classic. Now, adapting classics for a modern audience has always been fraught with danger. It’s a risky game with as many flops as successful re-imaginings.
Thankfully for McCoy and the cast of this Tron Production, when it comes to reworking the plays of Chekhov, playwright John Byrne has a proven track record.
Following the success of his adaptations of The Cherry Orchard and Uncle Vanya, Byrne has turned his attention to the Russian writer’s tragi-comedy about dashed hopes and unrequited love.
In the original, three sisters from an aristocratic family, Olga, Masha and Irina Prozorov, struggle to search for meaning in the modern world. Living in a provincial town, they long to return to the urban sophistication of Moscow where they grew up.
In Byrne’s take on the tale, it’s the not-so-swinging sixties in a Dunoon naval base where three sisters, Olive, Maddy and Renee, have spent the last 11 years looking longingly across the Clyde estuary.
Surrounded by military suitors, overbearing in-laws, and worthy Presbyterians, they yearn for London’s Carnaby Street and the love, culture and thrills they are denied in Argyllshire. Will they ever escape?
“I saw Glenda Jackson in Three Sisters at the Royal Court, London, in 1967 and was always intrigued by the piece,” says McCoy.
Despite his long held love of Chekhov, playing Dr MacGillivery marks McCoy’s first foray into the world of the Russian playwright.
“I have always loved Chekhov. Sadly never achieved playing in one until now... which is another reason why I wanted to it,” says the 71-year-old.
“When the opportunity to play Dr MacGillivery came up, I jumped at it... I only take parts now if I get to play the Doctor.
“What is glorious about Chekhov is that all his characters, every one of them, is interesting on the stage you are captivated by all them. There are no people just moving the plot on, everyone has a back story, for actors to play it’s a joy.”
Three Sisters, King’s Theatre, Leven Street, until Saturday, 7.30pm (matinees 2.30pm), £16.50-£25, 0131-529 6000