Trojan Women

Fri 1st – Sat 9th August 2014

reviews

Claire Murgatroyd

at 20:51 on 7th Aug 2014

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Euripides’ play ‘The Trojan Women’, written in 415BC during the Peloponnesian War is one that translates fairly naturally into a modern day setting. The themes of futility of conflict and gender inequality are things that anyone who has ever picked up a newspaper can engage with – an easiness of access that the Emanuel Theatre Company has capitalised on with their post-apocalyptic reworking of the text.

Despite not being the most surprising of scripts, this performance was truly proficient in vamping up fairly banal writing. A few moments were a little stilted, such as the soldiers’ gags, and the way that Hecuba’s sacrificing of her children became increasingly predictable. But overall it was clear that despite a disappointing script, the actors’ and director (Bethany Dawson)’s interpretation were both creative and engaging.

The play started with a surrealist set of beeping sound effects and characters with torches giving the audience nihilistic soundbites about the world of the play to come. While some critics might dismiss these effects as an ‘am-dram’ way of creating ambience, these evocative devices really had to be experienced to be appreciated. The opening did its job not so much in evoking the senses as violently stimulating them, in a way that pre-empted how dramatic the play quickly became.

The production certainly did not rely upon gimmicks, and this performance of ‘The Trojan Women’ cannot be passed over without some mention of how outstanding the acting was. A line or two may have been fluffed here and there, but this did not detract from the performance, and a special commendation has to go to Jenny Collett, as Hecuba, the leader of the female war survivors.

While admittedly having more text to work with than most other actors in the production, Collett relaxed into her role, and developed from staunch protector to a vulnerable, complex character. An extraordinary performer, she was by no means the sole talent within the play. The efforts of other actors, including Michael Crean as the spurned and twisted Menelaus, and Tallulah Haddon as a particularly outstanding chorus member helped highlight the important societal mantra that it is not the size of the part that matters, but what you do with it.

A few banalities in script and occasional blips like a back to the audience do not reduce how gripping and powerful this piece was, both in its unusual staging, and the committed cast. I would be more than happy to see what this bright young group do next.

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Amy Peters

at 01:59 on 8th Aug 2014

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Femininity and masculinity have been defined and redefined since time immemorial before Trojan Women was even a seed in Euripides’ Ancient Grecian mind, and they are explored once again here at the Fringe. Emanuel Theatre Company uproot Hecuba and her brood from ancient Troy and plant them firmly in the midst of post-apocalyptic London: a wasteland ravaged by war and all but razed to the ground. With all the men fled or dead, the broken women of the city band together to muster what dignity they can to survive.

Though the modernisation occasionally manifests itself in rather clunky dialogue, the decision to temporally relocate the tragedy to modern Britain brings a striking relevance to the ancient story. The show reiterates that war is war, and that now, as then, it is inevitably caused by the jealousies and insecurities of men with more power than they know what to do with.

The opening scene exquisitely utilises a soundtrack of gunfire coupled with effectively atmospheric lighting. Although occasionally employed inappropriately and blocking the faces of the performers, the lighting generally serves to enhance the deeply unsettling mood of the play. There are some genuinely horrifying moments brought to life by some impressive acting, most notably by Jenny Collett as Hecuba and Maddy Webb as Andromache.

A powerful and commanding actor, Collett owns the stage and movingly depicts some truly heart-wrenching moments between mother and child, raising important questions about what it means to be a mother, a woman and a human. Webb’s portrayal of Andromache is highly charged. She successfully brings the complex princess alive to create a deep and human character, easily relatable for many modern women.

The overall quality of the production itself is somewhat variable; it features some amazing, intensely emotional scenes that are incredibly well executed and engaging. However these powerfully done, highly charged scenes are punctuated by the occasional lull in energy that negatively impacts the overall experience of the piece.

There are some powerful, well-rounded female characters in this play, and it was heartening to see an impressive display from a strong group of young female actors. Overall, an ambitious but competent performance of a deeply distressing tragedy that explores the notions of masculinity and femininity, patriarchy and the devastating consequences of war. Recommended if you’re looking for an intensely emotional afternoon.

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