On Planet Fashion, war always looks hot. Every season is military season, with a minute but profound differentiating 'take', which for SS10 is martial-luxe: the Somme as styled by Marie Antoinette. See Marc Jacobs's flirty, fluffy mini-crini under crisp utility green, below; Balmain's tasselled sequin-and-satin soldier boy; Rag & Bone's slippy sloppy layers in shades of pistachio ice-cream; and Louis Vuitton's sleek caramel cargos shod with moustaches worthy of any Russian colonel - all in all, a softcore corps with added shine. Marc Jacobs SS10: I'm, like, totally about to give the Spartan battle cry
Unfortunately, Anton Chekhov spoiled me for military. Every season, I scour the catwalk livestreams and images for my own battle-scarred grail, and fail. Aged sixteen, cast as Vershinin in our girls-school Three Sisters by sole virtue of my six foot height, I wore the most beautiful original, nineteenth century, moss-green, floor-length, gold-buttoned coat, with the inimitable old wool smell of wet dog and homesick despair. It was probably the reason I went into theatre, and it is certainly the reason I spend hours wading through the unloved furs and wee-stained tweeds of Portobello and Spitalfields searching for a flash of faded verdigris.
Thanks to that blissful term of unchecked melodrama and misguided public acclaim, I also feel rather proprietorial about the play, and unnecessarily critical of productions I see. Even so, I could find little to dislike in Filter's delicious Three Sisters, just opened at the Lyric Hammersmith and directed by its new-ish and reliably fresh AD Sean Holmes. As John Peter pointed out in his four-star review for The Times, this is Christopher Hampton's 'version' of the play rather than Chekhov's, but Hampton's bald, crisp, and very funny text restores the nimbleness, humour and sexiness to a playwright whose works are too often interpreted by the English as morose and moping chamber pieces.
Here, brooding repression becomes instant and exuberant expression. From quicksilver Irina to sharp-tongued snob Natasha to borderline-autistic Andrey, everyone is unselfconsciously transparent and endearingly thin-skinned. Even Masha, the bruised-hearted contemplator, is played with lovely openness by Romola Garai. She tries to keep her cool, posing in her dark, masculine tailoring, but cannot help stomping around like a tortured teen, every longing etched on her palely glowing face. Poppy Miller is a heartbreaking Olga. Although frequently played with brittle bossiness, the eldest sister is one of the most sympathetic female roles Chekhov wrote, and Miller portrays a very real, warm woman who is trying to protect both her family and her own few carefully stockpiled scraps of hope.
And Vershinin? Well, for once, you can easily see how Masha could fall for John Lightbody's virile, hirsute, hair-tossing, chest-beating soliloquiser; an easy, charming schoolboy compared to her husband Koolyghin's goofily supplicating schoolmaster.
There are missteps. With a bit of a reputation following their riotous dance of a Twelfth Night, Filter evidently feel they need to do some clever, surprising things, such as speak bits of text into random microphones, and blast bizarre medleys of crap pop in between scenes. They don't. The immediacy of the acting and lack of sentiment in the production makes everything as clever and surprising as it needs to be.
And the fun retro-modern costuming avoided unnecessary reminders of my teenaged wardrobe apogee; which are in any case less painful now I've discovered Baptiste Viry's SS10 accessories range. No perfect coats for sure, but some belts and hats I'd go to Moscow and back for.
Anyway, go see.