This play has been waiting to be written for some time. The many similarities between the situations of the Bronte girls and Chekhov’s Three Sisters must have occurred to other writers but, to their credit and to their audience’s enjoyment, Blake Morrison and Northern Broadsides got on with it.
Sophia Di Martino (Emily), Catherine Kinsella (Charlotte) and Rebecca Hutchinson (Anne) in We Are Three Sisters at the Viaduct Theatre, Halifax Photo: Nobby Clark
Morrison has previously adapted five plays for Northern Broadsides. In We Are Three Sisters, he uses the template of Three Sisters but not slavishly so. He focuses on an intense period of the Brontes’ lives, when their brother Branwell was self-destructing and the girls were dealing with the first signs of literary success
Charlotte (Catherine Kinsella), Emily (Sophia Di Martino) and Anne (Rebecca Hutchinson) are played with detail and depth, both individually and as a trio. Di Martino’s performance is especially satisfying, given the elusive nature of her character.
Gareth Cassidy’s portrayal of the ne’er-do-well Branwell is etched with despair. Mrs Robinson, the older woman he loves, arrives unexpectedly (yes Mrs Robinson, you really couldn’t make it up). She is played intentionally jarringly, but a little too much so, by Becky Hindley.
At the parsonage there are men to distract, but they are a rum collection. The sisters busy themselves with their secret lives and a trip to London is planned.
Morrison’s play is much more than an interesting dramatic exercise. Despite its use of poetic licence, it goes some way to setting right the many myths and easy answers that seem to have grown round the Bronte family. Above all, with its honest and vigorous humour, it banishes the gloom.