Three Sisters

Welcome to The Republic of Biafra, 1967. A nation many have longed for, and a nation many are prepared to fight for – a chance to right the colonial wrongs of the past and forge a clear path ahead.

Inua Ellams’ play is passionate, disarmingly funny, and deeply moving.

Inua Ellams’ play is passionate, disarmingly funny, and deeply moving. It is not a re-telling of Chekhov’s play by the same name – it is a total reimagining. Of course, comparisons can be made between the two plays but by no means are they essential to the understanding and enjoyment of either. Spatially, Ellams places his narrative in a West African idyll that is ancient and vast, replete with its own temperature, long grass and birdsong. Thematically, Ellams’ script touches upon the bonds of sisterhood and the politics of suffering (as with Chekhov) but (unlike Chekhov) drills the core of its narrative energy into exploring what goes into making (or toppling) a nation state. Three Sisters is an unflinching analysis of the colonial damage Britain and other nations have inflicted across endless African locales, cultural identities, and religions.

The titular sisters are Lolo (Chloe Okora), Nne (Natalie Simpson), and Udo (Racheal Ofori), united by familial bonds, and the emerging dream of a land which is theirs. Ellams play has a large cast, including a tight ensemble who deliver transitions that hint at some of the destruction elsewhere. Nadia Fall’s direction shines as she delivers domestic spaces. Moments of peace are haunted by anxiety and although the family is strong, many of the domestic spaces feel toe-curlingly delicate. Legacies are beautifully outlined and represented in both Ellams script and Fall’s delivery of it.

Ken Nwosu plays a powerful Ikemba, who has to deal with both the brutality and bureaucracy of war. Peter Bankolé portrays an earnest intelligence officer who softens as the play unfolds into inevitable tragedy. Fall directs character development with the same careful grace that she delivers domestic fraughtness. Katrina Lindsay’s expansive set reflects Ellams’ Biafra with imposing beauty. Three Sisters is an expansively talented, major achievement.

Momentum in the first act is sublime, but pace does occasionally falter in the second. Ellams’ script cherishes the ideal of a homeland, and yet never lets up on an acerbic and accurate commentary that presents how impossible forming a new nation-state is in the face of often savage geopolitical manoeuvring. Millions died of starvation in the collapse of Biafra and Ellams states clearly that these deaths were engineered. These messages are coherent, complex, and unified across the set design and direction.

Three Sisters delivers a great fall as a sequence of minute, almost imperceptible, landslides. It is an immense and vast piece of theatre which educates as well as entertains. A unique reimagining of an outdated text, which delivers far more than its titular source, and resonates with a fraught and agonised power today.

Reviews by Skot Wilson

Royal Court Theatre

Shoe Lady

★★★
Royal Court Theatre

A Kind of People

★★★★
Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre

Three Sisters

★★★★
Royal Court Theatre

Midnight Movie

★★★★★
Camden Peoples Theatre

No Place Like Home

★★★
Coronet Theatre Ltd

A Letter to a Friend in Gaza

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Love and longing in 1960s Nigeria.

Owerri, 1967, on the brink of the Biafran Civil War. Lolo, Nne Chukwu and Udo are grieving the loss of their father. Months before, two ruthless military coups plunged the country into chaos. Fuelled by foreign intervention, the conflict encroaches on their provincial village, and the sisters long to return to their former home in Lagos.

Most Popular See More

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £36.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £31.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Les Miserables

From £22.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mary Poppins

From £31.00

More Info

Find Tickets