LUCY FEIBUSCH reviews 3 Winters at The National Theatre, Southbank.

Tena Stivicic’s 3 Winters is a triumph. The audience watches as the story of one family’s personal narrative seamlessly mirrors monumental international changes, occurring in the 3 winters of 1945, 1990 and 2011.

In 1945, the rise of communism bestows a frostbitten servant’s daughter with an empty house in Zagreb, once belonging to the bourgeois gentry. In 1990, at her funeral, her family realises that ‘Yugoslavia is fucked’, losing two maidenhead figures simultaneously. And in 2011 as the now independent Croatia is appealing to join the EU, her granddaughter prepares for her own wedding.

Photo Credit: Ellie Kurttz
Photo Credit: Ellie Kurttz

3 Winters is driven by its powerful female bloodline. The play considers the changing roles of the woman – from sewing in 1945 to studying for PHDs in 2011 – however it then must fight to not let this progression be undermined by outdated patriarchal tradition. To this end, highlights of the play include the perceptive representations of sisterhood under duress.

For its student audience, the majority of whom, including myself, were not born until after the breakup of Yugoslavia, the play’s educational merit must not be sidelined. Stivicic’s theatrical manifestation of the Croatian conflict informs a deeper understanding of this complicated historical period.

Tim Hatley’s moving set provides slick interchanges between scenes and time periods. While the play moves backwards and forwards in history, the films of conflict shown during scene changes and at the beginning of both Acts are chronological. Moving from familiar black and white war footage to more recent crudely bright recordings of the injured, the accompanying film provides a much needed continuity and explores war as an overriding force external from the limitations of time.

Charlotte Beaumont’s performance as the young Lucia is refreshingly comical, while James Laurenson’s, as the elderly Alexander King, avoids war-time story-telling clichés with a commanding and moving monologue. Further credit should be given to powerful performances from Siobhan Finneran as 1990’s Masha and Sophie Rundle as 2011’s Lucia.

Tena Stivicic’s palpable script is manifested impressively on stage under Howard Davies’ direction. Emotionally stimulating and expertly produced, 3 Winters is set to become one of the most revered productions of this theatre season in London.

3 Winters is showing until 3 February 2015 at The National Theatre, for tickets click HERE and on Friday 30 Janauge Ten Stivicic will talk about her new play, for more information click HERE