TROILUS AND CRESSIDA: William Shakespeare
Swan, Stratford Upon Avon; Wooster Group with RSC
Runs: 3h 20m, one interval, till 18 August
Review: Alexander Ray, 08 08 12
A production you won’t quickly forget.
The Wooster Group has created a unique performance style. They will bring into rehearsal objects and use them to stimulate imagination, incorporating them into their strange play-world. They run film extracts alongside performances; actors mimic the film action, though sometimes the film action doesn’t quite fit the on-stage action. We, the on-lookers, can’t rest comfortably, we are disorientated.
The RSC enter Wooster’s forum. But an additional layer is added. The Trojans are Wooster – cast and director; the Greeks are RSC – cast and director. Each foregrounds its own style, in this production the two warring races couldn’t be more different; Trojans based on American Indian, natural and rough-edged; the Greeks are formal in movement, voice and steel setting. Vocally, the Trojans are totally natural in their speech – an effect enabled by microphones; yet the microphones create artificial voices . . . Do we fall between two stools or do we have our cake and eat it?
And as if this isn’t enough – the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus is in the centre. Gender politics, transgendered politics, manly love and homoerotic love all reflect backwards and forwards throughout.
The effect is incredibly invigorating. Our present, it appears, is made up of chosen and found bits of our past; real life is artifice, but the artifice can, by turn, reflect and lead, life. This is not a production to approach casually, it is one to think about and think about again.
Joe Dixon is a terrific Achilles – tough, self-loving, funny (yes, funny) and, in the final moments of Hector’s death, moving. Scott Shepherd creates an extraordinary physical Troilus, with Marin Ireland’s Cressida, human and vulnerable in her honesty. Scott Hendy’s Ulysses is understated, acutely observed, chillingly normal and riveting. At the other extreme, and creating a mesmerising performance, is Zubin Varla’s revelatory Thersites. And this list would not be complete without mentioning Greg Mehrten’s off-hand, beautifully conceived, Pandarus.
There isn’t a weak link in this company. Laura Hopkins creates miracles within her set. And the two directors – Elizabeth LeCompte and Mark Ravenhill – and the company give us a TROILUS AND CRESSIDA we shall never forget.
The Wooster Group – The Trojans
Director – Elizabeth LeCompte
Associate Director – Kate Valk
Music Director – Bruce Odland
Set Elements and Costumes – Studio Folkert de Jong in collaboration with Delphine Courtillot
Video and Interactive Electronics – Andrew Schneider
Sound – Bobby McElver, James Dawson
Production Manager – Bozkurt Karasu
Stage Manager – Teresa Hartmann
Wardrobe – Enver Chakartash
Assistant to the Director – Jamie Poskin
Video Blog – Zbigniew Bzymek
Royal Shakespeare Company – The Greeks
Director – Mark Ravenhill
Designer – Laura Hopkins
Lighting – Nigel Edwards
Associate Director and Movement – Jane Gibson
Assistant Director – Audrey Sheffield
Composer – Dave Price