BBC Radio 4, 26 March - 6 April 2012
The story traces the decline of the noble Pintor sisters, who live in
Sardinia at the turn of the century. Proud but poor, the three sisters, Ruth (Kathryn Hunt), Ester (Deborah McAndrew) and
Noemi (Charlotte Emmerson), are reduced to selling their farm's produce clandestinely from their own house.
Superficially Linda Marshall Griffiths' adaptation carried Chekhovian resemblances,
with the sisters reminiscing on the past and its malign influence over the present: nearly twenty-five years ago they had
to endure the dishonour of their sister Lia (Holliday Granger) running away. Now they have to cope with the unexpected
arrival of Lia's son Giacinto (Matthew McNulty), which brings back further unsavoury memories.
However the adaptation has most un-Chekhovian associations in the presence of Efix
(John Lynch), a servant who - unlike the sisters - knows exactly what happened to their father and why they were
suddenly plunged into poverty. Although determined to keep the secret, he believes that, in an indifferent world ruled by
fate, the truth will eventually out. He muses: "We are reeds, and fate is the wind."
Efix's line gives a clue to the way in which Nadia Molinari's production works. At
one level it is a rattling good story, with unexpected discoveries, inter-familial as well as inter-generational conflicts.
At another level it is a meditation on human powerless; how everyone is subject to the ravages of nature. Maybe the family
were destined to be poor. The only way Efix can see to extricate oneself from that state is to hope for heavenly redemption
- even though he seldom believes his wishes will come true.
Structurally speaking, the drama reflects these two elements, with passages
of intense dialogue being broken up with soliloquies addressed direct to the listener - often in the form of staccato
statements - as the characters reflect on their fate, both in the present and the future. I shall certainly be listening to
the remaining episodes to see what happens: who knows, even fate might prove wrong?