Zagreb-born Tena Štivičić offers an epic drama about three generations of a Croatian family.
When I was at school, Croatia was a distant name vaguely synonymous with a horrendous conflict that raged horribly on the evening news. Now, not very many years on, it’s famous as a beach holiday hotspot. It can be hard to reconcile the two: but this subtle epic from Zagreb-born Tena Štivičić goes some way to shed light on Croatia’s difficult relationship with its own past.
Substantially set in 1945 and 2011, with a more problematic portion in 1990, ‘3 Winters’ is about a single family trying to reconcile itself with its own history and that of its motherland. In the 1945 thread, Rose and Alexander King are a married couple who found themselves on different sides in World War II: she a Communist partisan, he a conscripted soldier for the fascist government. Now the conflict is over, a new struggle begins as the reunited couple try to negotiate both each other and newly-formed Yugoslavia. Loyal partisan Rose is allowed to choose a house confiscated from the aristocracy to live in with her family and others – symbolically, she plumps for the grand pile where her mother worked as a servant.
In 2011, Rose’s gorgeous granddaughter Lucia (Sophie Rundle) is on the cusp on getting married to a shady gangster-type who insists on booting out the other families and returning the house to private ownership, ending the Communist dream. Inevitably the scars of the 1990s war – which are really also the scars of 1945 – remain horribly present.
It is canny of Štivičić to make this a domestic drama, set in a single house: the weight of war hangs so heavily on her characters – and the house itself is surely a character – that she doesn’t need to show the events themselves, which loom invisibly over the eaves of Tim Hatley’s handsome set. What she does really well is write great characters – specifically female characters – who wrestle with pain in erratic, spiky, human fashion, from taciturn Rose through to her granddaughter Alisa (Jodie McNee), who is both tremendously self-assured and desperately confused about her identity. Croatia is a pretty messed up place, suggests Štivičić, though her basic faith in humanity stops things getting too dour.
Though Howard Davies’s production is lucid and well-paced, the interlocking structure doesn’t quite work, mostly because the 1990 section feels like an undernourished bridging plot that doesn’t earn its place. Still, this is a moving, illuminating and finely-acted play that’s more evidence of the NT’s increasingly outward-looking programming.
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Simply brilliant! It was like watching my own life and family on stage - and packed with historical and cultural references. A must see for any Croat and those who have an interest in the country and people in general, as well as for anyone generally keen to see a great play. Bravo!
Superb. A very clever play illustrating the history of the country using the fate of a family over several generations. Funny and meaningful through the exploration of everyday life. Scenes from different times periods are put together like a puzzle so that you find out more about each member of the family as you go along - who they were, are, and will become. You don't need to be Croatian to enjoy this play (I'm not and I loved it), I would possibly just recommend to arrive a bit early and read up on the history of the country in the programme.
I loved it! Being Croatian myself I thoroughly enjoyed it and there are so many things in the play I can relate to. Last 70 years of Croatian history are cleverly portrayed through this family. The cast is superb as well.
We went to see this play last night. It jumps between 1945, 1990, and 2011, three generations of a family, all set in one posh old house in Zagreb. So they discover an old trunk in the attack and the young one puts on old dress and dances in the same spot where her grandmother danced all those years ago - the same as they did in Arcadia, only not nearly as memorable. It's set at three key points in Croatian history so there's lots of discussions about joining the EU etc. It's all very serious, hardly any laughs, and struggles to be laden with meaning. I just thought it was a bit boring really.