In this retelling of Euripides’ tragedy, the Trojan War has ended but the women of Troy are still to discover their fates and more tragedies.
This is a play about trauma, contending that there is no victor in war, and that it is a fate men are destined to repeat again and again.
The language is brutal and violent as we hear of the atrocities of war. A troupe of soldiers in fatigues remains in the audience whenever they are not on stage, adding a sinister edge, although the soldiers as characters are little more than boys, making jokes and seemingly unaffected by the war that has just happened. The women have grimy, mud-caked faces and torn, burnt clothing. Later the motif of red, white and blue clothing emerges, matching the damaged Union Jack hanging behind them.
All performers are strong, with a few stand-outs in key roles. Jenny Collet is convincing as Hecuba. As her young daughter, Polyxena, Elizabth Abouchar is moving in the section in which she accepts her fate. Francesca Cattaneo has the right amount of derangement and certainty as prophetess Cassandra – virginal in flowing white and the only character with clean, undamaged clothing. Ella Dale portrays Helen, the adulteress (or abductee, depending on how you read it) who sparked the war, attempting to convince her husband Menelaus that she still loves him, and that life can go on after the carnage of war.
This is a play about trauma, contending that there is no victor in war, and that it is a fate men are destined to repeat again and again. It’s a difficult work, particularly if you are unfamiliar with what precedes this play, the third in a trilogy on the Trojan War. The contemporary treatment of the text – references to Botox and the war being televised – works very well.
Some choreographed movement sequences are used by the chorus to good effect – I think I would have liked to see these in the opening chorus scene too, instead of the oft-used device of flashlights to illuminate their faces on a dimly lit stage. While it did work dramatically, particularly against a chilling opening sound design, it’s an overused device and in some cases didn’t provide enough light for us to see the actors' faces.
This play is not for everyone, but if, like me, you appreciate Greek tragedy, violent and poetic language, it’s highly recommended.