Troilus and Cressida, RSC Stratford U Avon, 5*****: Rod Dungate

Stratford Upon Avon

Troilus and Cressida: William Shakespeare



Runs 3h 20m. one interval, till 17 November 2018



Review: Rod Dungate, 25 October 2018

Quite a revelation

Gregory Doran has brought a unifying sense of purpose to this play, it has a clarity I have not witnessed before and reflects, totally, the age in which we live. It is not an easy-going watch, but this dynamic sense of purpose is the reason it earns its 5*****.

Troilus and Cressida is not frequently performed; there may be several reasons, so many characters you literally lose the plot, loose ends, even the position of Troilus and Cressida within the story. Gregory Doran makes sense of it all.

The tone is set from the very start when Helen (descending in a glove) gives the exposition, the prologue – even her ousting of Perseus makes a point. Her tone is far from glorious, it is ironic, amused, possibly bitter. Doran extends this with the rulers and military leaders – Ulysses, Agamemnon and others – vocally and physically posturing peacocks and peahens in equal measure. There is a sense of boredom with the war – soldiers seem to fight or not fight as the mood takes them. Theo Ogundipe’s Ajax is particularly fine among this shambolic lot – most definitely a case of all brawn and very little brain.

Running contrary to this line, though, are the love relationships between Troilus and Cressida and Achilles and Patroclus. This latter is given great weight, most moving in the scene in which Patroclus (James Cooney) blames himself for Achilles’ (Andy Apollo) inaction. Pandarus becomes, not a salacious old bloke, but an elderly, somewhat dotty, old gent taking pleasure in bringing the joy of love to two young people. Oliver Ford Davies is superb as Pandarus, no word, no half-a-word is wasted in his avuncular creation. We note then that the two elements of humanity are destroyed by the cynical manoeuvrings of the political elite.

With this masterful stroke, Doran holds up a terrible mirror to our times.

The performances are strong – each actor clearly understands his or her character’s role in this complex debate. Sheila Reid’s Thersites strikes the right cynical note and is a welcome bridge between us and the play.

Aiding both the atmosphere and the punctuation of the production is a terrific, predominantly metallic score from Evelyn Glennie and Dave Price.

Not an easy watch, but an extraordinary amount of food for thought.

Priam: Ewart James Walters

Hector: Daniel Hawksford

Andromache: Gabby Wong

Paris: Geoffrey Lumb

Helen: Daisy Badger

Troilus: Gavin Fowler

Cassandra: Charlotte Arrowsmith

Helenus: Mikhail Sen

Polyxena: Esther McAuley

Aeneas: Amanda Harris

Pandarus: Oliver Ford Davies

Cressida: Amber James

Calchas: Helen Grady

Alexandra: Leigh Quinn

Paris’ Servant: Nicole Agada


Agamemnon: Suzanna Bertish

Menelaus: Andrew Langtree

Ulysses: Adjoa Andoh

Nestor: Jim Hooper

Achilles: Andy Apol

Patroclus: James Cooney

Ajax: Theo Ogundipe

Diomed: Daniel Burke

Thersites: Sheila Reid


Director: Gregory Doran

Designer: Niki Turner

Lighting Designer: Matt Daw

Composer: Evelyn Glennie

Movement Director: Sian Williams

Fight Director: Terry King


Production Photo by Helen Maybank © RSC

(Credits will follow.)


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