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BWW Reviews: TROJAN WOMEN, Brockley Jack Theatre, January 17 2013

The Trojans did not beware Greeks bearing gifts and allowed the great Wooden Horse into their city. Cue its hidden cargo's escape under cover of darkness anfd their opening the gates to let in the hordes of Athenians who promptly sacked Troy and slaughtered its population. After ten years of war, only a handful of women are left - raped and starved, auctioned off to the victorious army, awaiting a fate that lies overseas. Politicians quibble and manouevre for position, psychopaths indulge their whims and religious leaders claim supernatural powers to manipulate those desperate for something to believe in.

It's not a barrel of laughs.

Howard Colyer's adaptation of Seneca's ferocious condemnation of war and its aftermath keeps pricking you with echoes of CNN, Al Jazeera and BBC News. The Chorus lurk in The Shadows, masked and anonymous, lamenting the fate of the innocents, but as powerless as any television viewer appalled at today's outrages of occupation and plunder. Ulysses (Daniel Wilson) makes the parallels most explicitly, even referring to "Homeland Security" at one point, and underlining that war aims are far less important than an ex post facto justification of a conflict's cost in blood and treasure. Such justifications demand a powerful and capricious enemy to be mythologised even as they are destroyed utterly in reality.

Hecuba (Jacquie Crago) is the Queen whose family is assassinated and sacrificed on the altar of religious rites and political expediency - her rage is the rage of those left behind to suffer. Despite the army's atrocities and the murderous Pyrrhus (Edward Mitchell), the most villainous of the villains is Calchas (Tania Batzoglou), the heartless priestess reading the entrails to send men, women and children to their deaths.

After the panto season, so serious a work is probably what's needed, but Nameless Theatre's production can feel a little relentless in its presentation of suffering and its grim political backdrop. The modern language register makes it easy to follow - but the question is whether you want to follow it. The play's message is a universal truth and it's powerfully presented, but I fear it may be nothing really new to the kind of theatregoer interested in seeing an interpretation of Seneca in January.

Trojan Women is at the Brockley Jack Theatre until 2 February.

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From This Author Gary Naylor