Two Sisters, Two Brothers
was commissioned by The Hurst School and first performed in April 2023
The development process began with a series of theatre workshops with students at The Hurst from March to May 2022. What emerged through a series of improvisations were complex ideas about friendship and loyalty, peer group pressure, otherness, uncertainties about identity and trying to retain one’s integrity whilst dealing with and honouring the expectations of others. I then wrote a series of short scenes responding to the students’ work and incorporating their ideas, which we then explored in further workshops. The students’ response to those scenes (in discussion and practical work) informed the first draft of the play.
While working on that first draft, I reflected on how many of the students’ concerns were similar to those in Antigone. Sophocles’ play is one of the most frequently adapted of all classical Greek plays. Two Sisters, Two Brothers is not an adaptation as such – rather a dramatised response to the material generated in the theatre workshops which uses Antigone as a reference point. There is no direct correlation between Sophocles’ characters and those in our play, although Anna, her sister Izzie and their dad, Colin, have similar drives and obsessions to Antigone, Ismene and Creon. And there are several plot parallels. Antigone also provided a useful model in its use of the Chorus. All surviving Greek tragedies have a Chorus, but it usually acts as a commentator on the action, and occasionally as a neutral umpire. In Antigone, however, the Chorus is not only critical of characters, but influences them, and what the Chorus says affects the outcome of the play. In Two Sisters, Two Brothers the Chorus is equally important, sometimes driving the narrative forward, sometimes reflecting on Anna’s actions, sometimes arguing about her motives, and occasionally revealing her innermost hopes and fears.
I was delighted to receive this commission, and it has been a great privilege to work with such talented and highly motivated students and staff in such a well-resourced school. I hope the play is as stimulating for the audience who see it and as rewarding for those taking part as it has been for me to work on.
My thanks to Eleanor Brown of CARAS (Community Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) who gave generously of her time to talk about refugees centres, and to Andrey Kurkov, whose work has been invaluable in researching the Ukrainian elements of the play.