Through the ages war has often been defined by physical conflict and soldiers on the battlefield, however the true impact is of course far more encompassing.
Trojan Women, written by Howard Colyer based on Seneca and directed by James Farrell, deals with the aftermath of the war that saw the Greek camped outside the walls of Troy for ten long years. It was Ulysses's Trojan Horse and its hidden Greek occupants, brought through the gates of Troy and presumed as a victory gift, that ended the war. The heroes from both camps, Achilles and Hector, are dead. The play is set among the rubble, with only Greek soldiers and Trojan women and children left.
The main question that Trojan Women seems to ask: What happens now? The only one who knows, Cassandra the cursed seer, is not believed. She is raped and taken away. The Greek officers seem to have bigger problems on their plate right now as the men are restless and the wind does not stir. Previously this was solved by female sacrifice and lo-and-behold, Greek seer Calchas demands a second sacrifice of Hector’s son Astynax and daughter Polyxena.
The beautifully masked chorus of Trojan Women by designer Libby Todd, lamenting the women’s fate, was a theatrical gem. However there seemed to be a lack of direct conflict, even within the fatalistic philosophy, that saw the action stall.
Andromache, Hector’s widow given real presence by Miriam Bell, knows she has to give up her son but does not ask after him once informed of his death to bury his body. Her daughter Polyxena, played by Avita Jay, though feisty in spirit doesn’t fight her sacrifice and the resulting conflict this ignites within her executioner is told but never shown. For an adaptation, more options could have been explored to drive the action.
The modern monologues and snappy dialogue between the many characters (I do suggest you brush up on your mythology) does work but there are too many storylines for a play that is an hour long. Whose story is this? Is it Hecuba’s, an excellent Jacquie Crago, Troy’s former Queen who has to see her city’s demise? Is it Andromache’s and the sacrifice of her children? Cassandra’s, who knows what will happen to all but is not believed? Or is this the story of Agamemnon and Ulysses, men tired of bloodshed, or Phyrrus, still hungering for revenge?
It can even be viewed as the conflict between men and women: men who rape and kill women yet led by female seers, their quest prompted by the kidnap of a woman. The hint of modern clothing raises the question of a reflection on modern warfare but this doesn’t seem to really deliver.
What really holds the play together though is the Nameless Theatre cast, who in their diversity work to create a smooth running play; although unresolved, I really did enjoy watching them perform.