by Euripides translated by David Crook.
White Bear Theatre 138 Kennington Park Road SE11 4DJ To 13 June 2010.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 5pm.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7793 9193.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 May.
Clarity rules in revival of ancient sex revenge tragedy.
Coming a few months after Tough Theatre’s White Bear production of anon. Elizabethan play A Yorkshire Tragedy, their revival of Euripides’ tragedy points-up how destructive human emotions destroy individuals and family alike.
The civilisation of Plato and Aristotle explained such fierce emotions through gods, who could instil overpowering, inescapable passions in humans. And they could pick up a threat or curse and make it inescapable.
The expression of very human feelings in heightened language amongst monarchs and divinities in Greek Tragedies is often adapted nowadays to fit small-scale theatrical spaces by using tight-reined expression which brackets words in single, rapidly-spoken speech running across a whole sentence. It demands technique and there are moments in Andy Brunskill’s production where rapidity or underplaying generalises the point.
It’s important especially in a translation like this new one by David Crook, which isn’t aggressively modern, but does include words and phrases familiar in modern speech and terminology. They give an immediacy – they could be the words of men and women in a contemporary setting. But they are words that don’t arise in an emotionally heightened state.
Similarly, the scattering of less common words in Crook’s version aren’t at all remote vocabulary, but they are terms that are used deliberately to express, or seek to express, an idea. Here they pass along swiftly and it can be hard to believe characters are actually thinking about the situation rather than giving a generalised emotional response.
This does have the advantage of avoiding the overblown and bringing the action closer to our experience. But the lack of rhetoric needs combining with more sense of thought. And there are certainly some actors here who provide this, including Nick Lawson as the wronged Hippolytus, stark devotee of manly pursuits and sexual chastity, and Charlotte Powell, who gives point to her questioning speeches as an individualised Chorus-member.
And Brunskill uses the space on Mike Lees’ set fluidly, its cracked edges complemented by a shrine to Artemis consisting of a wire-branched tree coiling off into barbed-wire. It adds to the feeling that it can’t have been easy, being an Ancient Greek.
Cast: Mike Aherne, Natasha Alderslade, Daphne Alexander, Cameron Harris, Nick Lawson, David Palliser, Pamela Parry, Charlotte Powell, Amy Simpson, Phillip Whiteman.
Director: Andy Brunskill.
Designer: Mike Lees.
Assistant director: Diana Mumbi.