BWW Reviews: THE TROJAN WOMEN, The Gate Theatre, November 12 2012


Set in a mother and baby unit in a prison, the captive women of Troy await their fate.

The former Queen of Troy, Hecuba, grips on still to the honours of status, as she and her daughter-in-law Andromache believe that they should have privileges in their suffering. Meanwhile, the Queen’s daughter, Cassandra, has been driven mad by her visions, and Helen of Troy, whose elopement with Paris brought along the Trojan War, appears to be calm and fairly smug with the present situation. 

It quickly becomes clear, that although supposedly on the same side, the women are all divided and now only fight personal battles. Replacing bow and arrow for riot helmets and machine guns, horse and chariot for iPhones and vans; this play is current and modern, despite its origins being thousands of years old.

Caroline Bird (one of the five official poets at London Olympics 2012, with her poem ‘The Fun Palace’ erected outside the main stadium) writes this new adaptation of Euripides’ tragic Greek play ‘The Trojan Women’, managing to make the story relevant now, as if someone could have planted a wooden horse filled with brutal soldiers in the middle of a big city sometime last week. Christopher Haydon, artistic director of the Gate Theatre, directs this ancient tale. Haydon and Bird manage to keep the play as close to the original format as possible, even in that Poseidon (Roger Lloyd Pack) and Athena (Tamsin Greig) still open the play via a fragmented television broadcast.

Despite the plays obvious dark nature, Bird has cleverly added humour throughout; this only seems to worsen the tragedy. Unusually the traditional Greek chorus is played by one actress, Lucy Ellinson. She is the only voice left of the people of Troy, a pregnant woman handcuffed to a hospital bed. Performing with wit and yet also despair, Ellinson portrays the fate of the entire society. She naturally shows the confusion that I imagine most people would feel in her situation, whilst giving the audience a character to sympathise towards. Louise Brealey brings a fresh energy to the stage as Cassandra, Andromache and Helen; whilst Dearbhla Molloy portrays the fallen Queen clutching onto her title.

The Trojan Women is noticeably a quirky way of introducing anyone to Greek theatre, be it for education or for pure entertainment. Caroline Bird has certainly found a way of bringing ancient stories into the modern world.


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