The opening words of Chekhov’s play, The Three Sisters are projected at the back of the stage before we are introduced to a man in a mouse suit who calmly describes our journey to the theatre today. The Three Sisters is set in a Russian provincial town but we are sat in a black box theatre in the centre of Manchester. Devised and performed by the students at The Arden, Khloé Kardashian explores the real time and space of performance.
Working with the live-art and experimental theatre group, Sleepwalk Collective, the current cohort of the BA (Hons) Theatre and Performance at The Arden, have created a deeply profound contemporary piece, which certainly encourages the audience to search for their own narrative outside of the confines of the performance space.
Using a Christopher Brett Bailey inspired soundscape, beautifully overwhelming and uneasy at times, we are introduced to six different personas (Paul Burke, Tristan Chadwick, Lily Rae Hewitt Jasilek, Sam Lowe, Frank Macdonald and Kate Smith) – their voices are only ever heard when they speak down a microphone.
Reminiscent of Forced Entertainment, particularly Bloody Mess, the costumes worn by each of the performers suggest narratives for their personas. We have the darkly comical mouse with his deadpan delivery; we wonder if the elegant lady in the red dress is somehow connected to the dapper gentleman with the cummerbund. A pregnant F1 pit girl totters along pushing a small television into the view of the audience. As the audience, we are encouraged to be active in drawing the dots on these fragmented narratives. The whole production is carefully and intelligently sculpted – there is always something different for the audience to cast their eye over.
Khloé Kardashian is a densely layered and poignant performance piece, occupying the space between text and performance – it seeks to deconstruct Chekhov and expose the illusion associated with such a naturalistic performance style. A props table is packed full of antiquities in stark view of the audience. One performer toasts a piece of bread before another chews on a cracker as he reels off Facebook-style memes into the microphone. Every little sound is heightened here – it feels awkward, fascinating and strangely entertaining.
As the darkness falls at the end of the performance to the sound of the haunting and relentless slow clap, I wondered if some themes could be excavated further as individual performance pieces. Such an absorbing performance with definite scope for further development.