Hippolytus

Thu 10th – Sat 12th March 2016

reviews

Conor McKee

at 01:29 on 11th Mar 2016

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An excellent production, this is a faithful rendering of the text cautiously adapted to suit modern sensibilities which will delight any audience.

In recent productions of Greek tragedy, it has become common either to remove the chorus or to minimize its role in the play, no doubt due to worries that audiences accustomed to naturalistic dialogue will find the antique convention a startling oddity, ignoring the importance that it held for fifth-century spectators. However, this production made splendid use of the chorus and even separated out individual voices at times to make their commentary seem more discursive and familiar for modern viewers. By transfiguring members of the chorus (Amy O'Shea and Katherine Cussons) into the goddesses Aphrodite and Artemis in the opening and closing scenes there is perhaps a suggestion that the forces of fate are really projections of tendencies within us all and feuding vengeful deities no more than psychomachy.

The chorus is especially crucial in this play: a work deeply concerned with the concepts of shame and posthumous reputation. The director has woven them into the very fabric of this production by portraying them as washer women and constructing a backdrop of linens hung up to dry. Later in the performance this cleverly doubles as a curtain through which Phaedra can listen in on the Nurse's conversation with Hippolytus and as a screen to conceal her hanging scene from the audience. The chorus are also a constant reminder of the truth behind Phaedra's expostulations about the difficulties of life as a woman when her own moral failings might otherwise call her wisdom into doubt. The lighting effects reminded us of the passing of day, carefully synchronized with remarks in the text that treat sunlight as a synechdoche for the fleeting experience of life. Of course, they also remind us that the action transpires within a 'single revolution of the sun' in line with Aristotelian aesthetics.

Adam Mirsky played Hippolytus well and his relationship with his father Theseus (Kyle Turakhia) was authentic, capturing the extremes of anger and eventually reconciliation. Phaedra (Inge-Vera Lipsius) was also generally impressive though at times her madness felt slightly affected. The casting choices also suggested the similarities in age between Hippolytus and Phaedra, in contrast with a gap between her and her husband; such relationships were commonplace in fifth-century Athens, sometimes precipitating sexual tensions between sons and stepmothers who might be uncomfortably close in age.

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isla phillips

at 12:43 on 11th Mar 2016

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Hippolytus was an honest production of Euripides’ drama and I would definitely recommend to anyone wanting to get to know some Greek tragedy that they go and watch it tonight.

The cast was well-rehearsed and worked well together, especially the chorus who were always on stage. I was really pleased that the production kept the tragic chorus, as often many modern productions of Greek tragedy don’t. The chorus was used in a way that didn’t alienate the audience and so were able to come one of the main focuses of the play. I especially thought that having the gods come out of the chorus of women was a particularly effective decision, especially after the powerful opening scene.

At the start of the play the chorus are on stage and create a rhythm to their lines by beating as they wash white linen. Overall the minimal aesthetics of the production were really powerful, the use of white linen in combination with the muted colours of the costumes was very pleasant and worked really well in juxtaposition to the tragedy unfolding on stage. Equally I thought the lighting was done really well, very simple but powerful. Also worth noting is that the use of fake blood was appropriate to the play and did succumb to being overly gory.

On the whole the whole cast was slick apart from one or two lines being slightly stumbly. But overall there was a good balance of melodrama, appropriate to tragedy, mixed with more naturalistic acting. There were especially striking performances from the Nurse, Cyprus and Hippolytus.

I really enjoyed Hippolytus, and was impressed by how they stuck to the Euripides and the tasteful scene and costume design.

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