Review: 3 Winters, National Theatre

“Governments fall, wars break out – there’ll be nothing left of this country”

Recent Croatian history forms the fascinating backdrop to Tena Štivičić’s 3 Winters, a multi-generational family drama that stretches across nearly 70 years and endless drama, both political and personal. From the 1945 establishment of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that replaced the monarchy and promised a bright future, to its collapse in 1990 presaging both independence and the bitterly fought Balkan conflicts of that decade, and then on again to a 2011 that heralds another form of confederacy as Croatia enters into EU accession talks. Štivičić’s focus remains on a single household throughout but it can’t help but be influenced by the turbulence of the times.

That household is the Zagreb home of the Kos family, a plush place passed into their hands during the nationalisation of property at the end of the Second World War. So the residence that Monika previously served in becomes the house her daughter Rose moves into with her daughter Masha. Masha grows up to be a forthright wife and mother of two and as the clan gathers to celebrate the wedding of one of those daughters Lucia, years of frustrations and secrets and history and lies begin to uncoil as past events catch up with present actions. Štivičić takes her time to set up the play in a languorous first half but the pay off is intensely wielded after the interval.

Howard Davies’ mastery of this kind of historico-family drama has long been established, especially here in the Lyttelton, and Tim Hatley’s luxurious design has a wonderfully epic sweep about it as it elegantly switches and slides between time periods. Striking video work from Jon Driscoll embroiders and elucidates the larger political picture, whilst detailed work from a strong company makes the personal powerful. Josie Walker’s Monika, Jo Herbert’s Rose, Siobhan Finneran’s Masha (particularly good) and Sophie Rundle’s Lucia are compelling as the four generations, with Jodie McNee’s Alisa, Susan Engel’s Karolina and Adrian Rawlins’ Valdo offering sterling support (among many).

Between the contemporary India of Between the Beautiful Forevers, the forthcoming historical India of Dara, the Filipino-centric Here Lies Love and now twentieth century Croatia, I’m loving the current international focus of the National Theatre as it shines light onto hitherto dramatically unexplored (at least in my theatregoing time) aspects of our world. And not just that, raises issues within them that speak directly to us – how societies treat their poor, endemic political corruption at all levels, considerations of national versus European identities – whether we choose to listen to them or not.

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Ellie Kurttz

Booking until 3rd February

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