This is a play for fans of Greek tragedy and theatre nerds. Luckily, this niche audience can be found in droves at Fringe festivals.
Intellectual, challenging and very satisfying.
In the performance I saw, writer/director James Beagon also played the Voice — the disembodied omniscient controller of what happens on the stage, mercilessly keeping the three women trapped, caught in a ceaseless cycle of playing out their tragedies over and over again. (It’s very meta). As the play ramps up, scenes are played simultaneously, moments are edited and decried and the authorial Voice intrudes. Beagon’s script is ambitious and at times difficult to keep up with, unfolding a rapid parade of characters, affairs, betrayals and executions. This is deliberate: exploring the way stories are structured from history and what (and who) is discarded for clarity, if not accuracy.
Managing well with the challenges of the small space and large cast, the staging is strong. While the cramped stage at the Paradise Vault is perhaps not ideal, the proscenium arch allows the women to step outside the story. There is a need for further refining of the performance, but the eight members of the cast work well together, with some standout performances from Sophie Harris as the seductress/conquest Poppaea and Alice Paillocher in the ensemble who doubles in several parts. There’s a lot of fun in the way this piece plays with the theatrical form. It’s intellectual, challenging and very satisfying.