THE TROJAN WOMEN
by Caroline Bird after Euripides.
Gate Theatre 11 Pembridge Road W11 3HQ To 15 December 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7 229 0706.
Review: Martin Franks 13 November.
Brave, powerful interpretation of the essence of this Euripides classic with lots to admire.
Caroline Bird, a brilliant contemporary wordsmith, has chosen in her words “to communicate my experience of Greek tragedy, in all it’s fresh pain" rather than translate the original, and for much of the time this works.
Dearbhla Molloy’s highly accessible interpretation of the arrogant, aristocratic Queen Hecuba is placed at the core of the piece. alongside the Chorus, played here by Lucy Ellinson. as a handcuffed working-class pregnant mother. It’s a strong idea for a Chorus and ironically the most real of all the performances. There’s other good acting too, particularly from Louise Brealey playing expertly all three great Trojan Women, Cassandra, Andromache and Helen.
But despite these performances there is a conundrum in this piece – how to play huge, loud and visceral tragic themes and emotions in the Gate’s tiny space. Turning the Greek tragic motif into a more naturalistic contemporary style works well. But the slightest of performance flaws glares out at you.
Within the reality of the pain nothing should be held back. Babies and Children are being murdered. Do I believe that Hecuba had sold her daughter for her son’s body or that her grandchild is murdered in front of us? In these close quarters, the second I don’t believe these are real people going through this real horror it feels patronising and cheap.
And the reality could easily be made deeper, as these horrors still surround us from Nazi Germany, Sri Lanka and the Balkan Wars to Syria and Afghanistan. Pampered theatre audiences may be mostly protected but these depravities are in our world now and we should uncomfortably feel that.
That’s not to say that the humour peppered throughout the piece didn’t work. Tragedy placed alongside humour is much more tragic, and it’s also how most people deal with chaotic and horrific times.
But, in the end, even if it might not be as brave as it might, Christopher Haydon’s production of Bird’s script is well worth seeing – especially if all the actors rip real emotion from their spleen.
Cassandra/Andromache/Helen: Louise Brealey.
Menelaus: Sam Cox.
Chorus: Lucy Ellinson.
Talthybius: Jon Foster.
Hecuba: Dearbhla Molloy.
Ensemble: James Barbour, Diarmaid Browne, Bogden Mirel, Kit Spink.
Athena: Tamsin Greig.
Poseidon: Roger Lloyd Pack.
Director: Christopher Haydon.
Designer: Jason Southgate.
Lighting: Mark Howland.
Sound: Gareth Fry.
Video: Iona Firouzabadi for misfitfilms.co.uk
Assistant director: Kate O’Connor.
Associate lighting: Joshua Pharo.