first night

The Trojan Women

Kate Wilkinson admires the misery of Euripides.

Woe, sorrow and misery; all words which adequately describe the tone of DUCT’s production of Euripides’s The Trojan Women. However, don’t let this put you off. If you are feeling down due to work-related stress or you’re feeling under the weather with a second wave of fresher’s flu, oddly enough, this could be the play for you. It certainly put my own problems into perspective. Until I have had to watch my husband and children die and then forced to be the sexual slave of my enemy, I really shouldn’t complain!

The Trojan Women is a brave production choice by directors Charly Burnell and Michael Huband considering that it is a play without plot and its success relies heavily on the talent of its cast to bring alive a fairly wordy script. The action of the play is in a state of stasis, a sort of purgatory. The Trojan women of the title mournfully lament the loss of their fallen beloved whilst reluctantly awaiting their inevitable fate as prizes for the enemy Argive captains. The script draws attention to the tragedy of war, a message which is just as pertinent today as it ever was.

The play showcased Durham’s wonderful female acting talent with believable performances from all, most notably Heather Cave as a deeply sympathetic Andromache and Anna Jackson as a bewitching Cassandra. Most notable of all was Beth Greenwood as Hecuba who had the significant majority of lines. Greenwood played the role with sensitivity and maturity and despite the melodramatic nature of the tragedy, managed to avoid being over the top. It was a truly impressive performance especially considering the sustained level of intense emotional turmoil. By the end, I was feeling emotionally drained, I can only imagine how the actors may have felt! The few male parts of the play cannot be overlooked. Chris Yeates was convincing as Talthybius, the Argive messenger. He imbued his character with warmth and humanity underneath the military poise. Will Hockedy played Menelaus with aplomb, creating a sly and rather repugnant character. His presence on stage highlighted a contrast with the women and it became clear where the true strength of character lay.

As for the staging, the set remained the same throughout and the audience is faced with what looks like a cross between a museum exhibition and an art installation. I mean this in the best possible way. The array of hanging white masks was elegantly simplistic and revealed a deep symbolic meaning only later in the play. At the spell-binding moment that another mask is lifted up to join the rest, what I had thought as simply an aesthetically interesting use of stage design became an image of the countless lives lost in the Trojan War. In addition, the stage itself remained almost bare throughout apart from the three covered plinths with different ancient-looking artefacts. I found these less interesting than the hanging masks- to the extent that I forgot exactly what was on each one- however I think that may have been the point. They furnished the play with a sense of ancientness without distracting from the performance itself.

If there is any issue with this production then it would lie with the script itself as the long winded monologues become at times slightly tiring. However, the direction made this ancient play as accessible as it could’ve been made and supported with tremendous acting talent, this is surely not a play to miss.

Kate Wilkinson

8 February 2013

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
Our theatre that speaks for itself

DST is proud to be supported by: PwC