The Women of Troy, Blue Elephant Theatre 4pm April

****

The first and main thing to say is that this production worked, which modern attempts at Greek tragedy most often don’t.  So much so indeed, that the apparent school party who made up most of the audience staged a mass walk-out after the reinterpretation of the killing of Astyanax as an enforced abortion.

At the beginning, as in the same company’s Hecuba, there was an effective stage presentation of Trojan glory and collapse.   After that, a lot of the action went on in semi-darkness, which is definitely un-Greek as an idea:  let him at least kill us in the light.  The characters on stage arranged themselves in static patterns that recalled at times David and at times Alma-Tadema.  In fact, the possibility of having any impressive choral movement was vitiated by most (but not all) of the stage being occupied by a raised dais.

But there were many stage devices employed more effectively.  Having the cast sing a vocalise, then one character sing the words, that at the end a triumphal two-part chorus after which Hecuba’s face alone illuminated in the midst of darkness reflected all the pain and tragedy that had passed.  Hecuba (Alice Brown) was very good throughout, while Kerrian Burton as a fey red-haired disengaged dissociated Cassandra made by far the best Cassandra I’ve ever seen, and in her first professional performance too.

I suppose I should have been irritated by the hand-me-down katiemitchellism of this production:  the sound of the roller door without the thing itself, for instance.  And the female character relaying the words of Talthybius who couldn’t run to a clipboard and so had to sort frantically through bits of paper instead.  But at least here we had a representation of Greek tragedy as being about something, even if feminist rant is not what Euripides had in mind.  I thought the adaptation–I can’t work out who did it from the programme, unless it was ‘Dramaturg Bobby Brook’–was highly effective, and made skilful use of rhyme where it helped.

Definitely worth seeing, and even staying for the whole 70 minutes.

See here for other Greek plays I know about in London.

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