Three sisters is a play by Inua Ellam "after Chekhov." In this vibrant adaptation of the Anton Chekhov classic, Inua relocates the characters from provisional Russia to Southeastern Nigeria during the Biafra Civil War (1967-1970). The play follows the life of three sisters; Nne, Udo, Lol and their brother, as they grapple with identity, family issues and conflict all whilst the war is happening.
Following the end of the war, the Nigerian government declared that there was ‘No Victor and No Vanquished’. It way for the country to move on from the atrocities of the war and accusations of genocide by the Igbo people. However, this has undoubtedly caused the war to become a relic of the past, a subject only spoken about in the comfort of victims; homes. The play is incredibly unique as it’s one of the first depictions of the realities of the effects of the civil war taken from the perspective of Igbo people.
The play is raw display of the realities of war, family displacement, death and the uncertainty that surviving another day brings. It’s incredibly accurate, both historically and culturally. Inua perfectly uses characters as mouthpieces to narrate the origins of the war and the role of the British who had financial stakes in the oil located in the Biafra region. Biafra wanted independence but Nigeria and Britain wanted sole control of the oil, the two wants couldn’t co-exist. The play shows Igbo language, culture, spirituality and the family pressures of the Okpara (first son).
Three Sisters is funny, entertaining and vibrant but it is also emotive, chilling and moving. When the lights dim and the curtains close, you are left feeling full and empty; full of new knowledge and laughter after having been entertained. But the destruction of the character’s lives before you create an internal vacuum which can’t be filled. The vacuum grows you as you realise this wasn’t just the experience of a few, but of many.