Mommy’s Dead and They Buried Her in Moscow

Online, Global

14/03/2024 - 24/03/2024

Dunedin Fringe Festival 2024

Production Details

Devised by | The Company
Directed by Connor Berkompas

Nervous Theatre (Montana, USA)

Contemporary riff on Chekhov’s Three Sisters: fast-moving, high-spirited meditation on grief, longing, and (miraculously) hope. ‘A spiked vodka shot wrapped in a production that magnificently captures the essence of live theatre’ (
Language: Performed in English
Available on-demand (1hr16)
Theatre (Devised, Adaptation, Physical theatre, Classic text, Music) (recommended for ages 12+)
Dunedin Fringe:

Masha | Sympathie the Clown
Irina | Annabella Joy
Olya | Connor Berkompas

Theatre , Physical , Digital presentation ,


Holds the theatre at its heart with intelligence and clarity

Review by Phoebe Smith 25th Mar 2024

 Mommy’s Dead and They Buried Her in Moscow is an adaptation (or “a riff on”) Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters. It is created by The Company and produced by Nervous Theatre in co-production with The Ellen Theatre, from Montana USA. This production is excellent and blew me away in content, performance, design and the true nature of what adaptation can and should look like.

As a self-confessed semi-Luddite, I have some trepidation about how effective an online production of a piece of theatre can be. My concerns swiftly evaporate and I am floored by the intelligence, the clarity and the smooth-flow of Connor Berkompas’ design and direction of this show. This is not a piece of theatre that has been filmed. This is a piece of theatre that has been realised as an online, filmic experience that nevertheless holds the theatre at its heart.

We open with nearly two minutes until the play actually “begins”, and are presented with backstage preparations which remind us that although we are watching this show online, essentially as a film, it remains a piece of theatre. The background of the theatre behind and through it is almost like the fourth sister or even, the “mommy” who cradles and completes the piece. This continues throughout the play with medium that can only occur in theatre and timely use of what can only occur in film being deftly combined. Not least as we see the actors share a fag outside the stage doors.

The three actors who play Irinia (Annabella Joy), Olya (Connor Berkompas), and Masha (Sympathie the Clown) are impeccable in performance. Their timing, quality of delivery, attention to detail, and capacity of empathy, whether in song, soliloquy, dialogue, or silence is laudable. Mention also must be made of cinematographer Michael Amos and audio engineer Josh McIntyre, whose expertise is crucial to the seamless flow of production with which the audience is generously presented. 

To devise an adaptation so contemporary and yet so caring of the well-known and respected Slavic script is not an easy task, and is handled with a gentleness, humour and “fuck you” attitude that sits innately well with all three sisters’ performances. We judge not a jot of your gender, your past mistakes, or your current terrors but we see a palpable connection between the three characters and also between the three visible actors who portray them. As an audience member, part of me wants to be their best friend and go to Moscow, just as long as I don’t accidentally get married en route.

It is a tribute to the design and direction that it took this reviewer a solid 30 minutes of a 1 hour 18 minute piece (and yes, I did watch it two and a half times, and might get a cheeky third viewing in this afternoon) to notice that all the other characters are played by off-camera voices. This gives us a deeper insight into the mentality of these three sisters whose lives have been complicated by politics, war and parents. (It Is Chekhov after all!)

We are introduced to the sisters with the motif of planting a solemn sunflower each upon their father’s grave, on each anniversary of Irinia’s name-day (or birthday).  This symbolic act is used to great effect as we see their dwindling compassion for each other as the years go by, and as their hopes to return to Moscow diminish. We see an understanding of futility blooming in their perspectives that suggests it will overcome them.  Each sister exhibits a growing desire to perhaps be more than the birds whose DNA wills them to return to habitats that may not befit them. The relationships between the sisters cannot be broken and family is paramount without giving way to the need for individuality.

The choices made around music and lighting are a delight and never used without the intention being both clear and valid. The audience roots for each sister, even as we despair of them and perhaps note who our sisters are in our everyday lives.

This cast of three visible actors convey the altering dynamic between the trio with no awkwardness of power dynamics. This reviewer has never seen Three Sisters portrayed with such bleak and positive power over a near impossible situation. The concept of being forgotten yourself, but to be a sacrifice to allow fortune for future generations has never been clearer nor more questionable – as it is supposed to be.

Should anybody still have the opportunity to view this play online, it is with my highest recommendation and I hope to have the opportunity to see these players again. Also, don’t stop watching when the title credit appears at the end. We are treated to an inspired dance number that celebrates both the theatre, physically and also the utmost connection between the three sisters within the play and the three actors who bring it together with so much heart, cynicism and soul.


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