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Women’s War

Thursday, 22 March, 2012

Women of Troy at the Blue Elephant theatre

For this group of women, the world has ended.

Troy has fallen to the Greeks and, with the burden of so many dead still to be borne, they are now without status, without identity, without a future. Pain, physical and mental, is to be their legacy, and now, with the full force of its presence beginning to be felt, the question for the women of Troy is how to salvage anything from the wreck of their state.

There aren’t too many feelings to be spared. Children die, humanity and dignity are gradually taken from them, until they can only question what identity might be. The play is a fairly relentless examination of what being human – and what being a woman – might actually entail.

But this is a big production – sixteen actors – and it is elegantly staged by Fringe Report Award winning director Ricky Dukes. This is true from the opening scene where the women appear on the stage through the smoke and then collapse into a tableau reminiscent of Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa. From that moment on, sound, lights and movement are used to great effect to punctuate the process in which the women are stripped of every vestige of dignity and hope.

And yet their response to their situation allows them to re-acquire their presence and some vestiges of dignity, even though everything is to be taken from them. This is an ensemble performance, in which it is collective, rather that individual talent which is to be admired, but there are many good performances – Alice Brown as the once-queen Hecuba, carrying the weight of expectation as well as pain, Ina Marie Smith as the initially hopeful Andromache coming to a dreadful realisation, and the excellent Kerrian Burton, playing Cassandra with real threat and almost casual intent as the future consort of Agamemnon, in whose sandals very few people would wish to be.

There are big questions here – about the nature of identity and the worth of the individual, about preserving dignity in the face of death and humiliation. It is not a comfortable evening, but it is one that is both elegantly and stylishly staged and it has some really impressive moments as the inevitable becomes reality and these women learn together that it is only their determination to be which creates them.

Cast: Lalla Alj – Francesca; Gemma Beaton – Athena; Kerrian Burton – Cassandra; Jaclyn Bradley – Madeline; Alice Brown – Hecuba; Rayanna Dibs – Collette; Lauren Garfitt – Abigail; Jessica May – Rosanna; Ina Marie Smith – Andromache; Neusha Milanian – Helen; Cate Myddleton Evans – Bertrande; Ruth Paterson – Hero; Victoria Porter – Marianne; Emma Jane Richards – Hope; Meriel Rosenkranz – Adriana.

Ricky Dukes – Director; Nick Kent – Sound design; Alex Musgrave – Lighting; Julia Cave – Movement director; Emily Stuart – Costume; Gavin Harrington-Odedra – Associate director; Sophie Gilpin – Assistant director

(c) michael spring

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