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REVIEW: The Trojan Women at The Bristol Old Vic, 04/03/16

Directed by the Old Vic’s Sally Cookson and transformed into a modern adaptation by Brendan Kennelly, “The Trojan Women” takes place in the aftermath of the Trojan War centralising on the women left behind as prisoners. This production compellingly illustrates that for women, the war is far from over.

On a barren and misty stage the play begins, as dutiful wives solemnly cloak themselves in their fallen husbands’ coats symbolising their effort and desire to take over the protection of their families and their honour. The females’ unanimous and shrieking lament that continues throughout the play terrifyingly emphasises their helplessness and exposed vulnerability. Their animalistic howls of desperation are far too piercing to be overlooked by the audience but are astoundingly ignored by the Greeks who carelessly assign each innocent woman to a new master’s bed.

This contemporary adaptation contains singing, dancing and spoken word poetry as an enchanting attempt to exacerbate the unbearable situation of the figures on stage. However, such melodramatic features feel slightly unnatural and exaggerated.  The tragedy of the burial of Cassandra’s (Eleanor Jackson) innocent newborn is entirely diminished through synchronised manoeuvres of each female.

What is far more convincing is the consistent performance of Hannah Bristow as the play’s tragic hero and former Queen of Troy, Hecuba. Her remarkable attempts to encourage her fellow women’s spirits, and pleadingly negotiate with the soldiers that enslave her create the most poignant and emotional parts of the play. Similarly the heightened argument between Menelaus (Maannuv Thiara) and his abandoned wife Helen (Michelle Fox) generated a needed atmosphere of tension and suspense that cannot go unrecognised. 

(Photo Credit: B24/7)

This production reveals that such an old tale contains universal themes concerning gender and morality which are still extremely relevant in out society today. Although a more stripped down production might have been more effective, the impressive acting does leave the audience extremely disturbed at the women’s sheer inescapability from their situation.

Performances of The Trojan Women continue at Bristol Old Vic until Saturday 12th March. For more information and to book tickets visit http://www.bristololdvic.org.uk/trojanwomen.html

(Featured Image Credit: Bristol Old Vic)

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