Trojan Women

Tue 6th – Sat 10th May 2014

reviews

Suzanne Duffy

at 09:31 on 7th May 2014

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‘Trojan Women’ was an ambitious attempt at a difficult piece of theatre which had moments of brilliance but ultimately fell flat.

The play itself is a lament for the city of Troy by the women who are left waiting to be divided between their Greek conquerors. With the original Greek choral form in mind, it was a bold directorial choice by Sarah Mercer to exclude singing in favour of a mixture of monologues, chanting and dance by the Chorus (comprised of Ella Duffy, Tara Kearney, Olivia Stamp, Joanna Clarke and Olivia Bowman).

By criticising the lack of musicality in the production one risks judging the play by an ambition to which it does not claim to aspire; nevertheless the interminable speeches demand to be broken up and it felt as if an element was missing.

The physical theatre interludes were unconvincing, particularly when mixed with a Florence and the Machine song and strobe lighting. Rather than flowing naturally from previous action, these intervals created an unintentionally disjointed atmosphere. It felt as if the cast were not fully invested in creating an effect once they stepped outside of mere characterisation.

Having said that, some of the characterisation was superb. Rhianna Frost was excellently unnerving as poor, mad Cassandra and Kennedy Bloomer was quietly menacing as the amoral messenger Talthybius. Georgie Henley led the cast as Hecuba, the ex-queen of Troy. Her performance was by no means bad, but it suffered because of its unvaried tone. This was a problem with the play as a whole which is perhaps inherent to the material; it is very difficult to make an audience emotionally engage with strongly expressed grief ‘beyond imagining, beyond enduring’ for an hour and a half.

The play was most successfully moving during Andromache’s (Eleanor Mack’s) scene with her son (helped by the presence of a child actor) which was truly shocking, but it was a mistake to attempt to sustain that tone the whole way through. The result of the extended bouts of crying and shouting, often by Hecuba while the Chorus stood around rather awkwardly was detached indifference rather than sympathy or empathy and this made the play feel overlong.

The strong performances of Rebecca Thomas and Ryan Monk as Helen and Menelaus respectively made the argument episode stand out. Henley reached the peak of her effectiveness of Hecuba in this section as her understated but obviously deep hatred of Helen cleverly problematized the theme of female solidarity and unification. In the more tonally varied parts of the production which did not involve the rather lacklustre Chorus there were glimpses of an interesting vision being thoughtfully executed.

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