Women of Troy

scoopOff this evening to The Scoop open-air theatre, close to London Bridge, to see Lisa Kuma’s adaptation of three of Euripides’ plays, which she conflates into a single narrative, entitled Women of Troy. The story is familiar: Paris (son of Priam, ruler of Troy and his wife, Hecuba) abducts Helen, wife of Menelaus. Agamemnon, the Greek king and brother of Menelaus, raises an army and is ready to sail to Troy to rescue Helen but before the gods will grant wind for his sails, he is required to sacrifice his beloved daughter Iphigenia. So with the Greek fleet stalled in the harbour and the Greek army becoming increasingly restless, almost to the point of rebellion, Agamemnon beseeches his daughter Iphigenia to accept the glory of sacrifice for the good of her nation. After many tears, she finally concedes to her father’s wishes, much to the despair and anger of her mother Clytemnestra.

Trojan horseThe first act ends with Iphigenia’s death. The second act begins with the Fall of Troy, showing the moment the Greek army emerges within the city walls from the belly of the wooden horse (pictured). Thereafter, the focus is on the fate of Helen, who has been released from supposed captivity, and the women of Troy.

For some reason, I found the performances of the actors playing the leading female characters considerably more convincing than those playing the principal male roles. Agamemnon, for example, supposedly the most powerful man in Greece, lacked any real presence and his phrasing seemed laboured and rather expressionless. Equally, there was little palpable anger in the performance of Menelaus, who had, after all, been cuckolded by his wife and made a laughing stock throughout the region. Achilles, too, failed to express any real passion. On the other hand, all the women were utterly engaging. It’s difficult to know who was responsible for this divergence since the challenges of performing in an open-air venue were the same for both sexes.

Despite this criticism, for those unfamiliar with the work of Euripides, the evening certainly represented a valiant and valuable introduction, and all the actors are to be applauded for that. Lisa Kuma’s text managed to maintain a fine balance between a colloquial tone that could be readily appreciated by a modern audience, and a more serious discourse that retained some of the dramatic poetry and power of the original lines. The performance was staged as part of the More London Free Festival.

Achilles – Eddie Eyre
Agamemnon – Phil Willmott
Andromache – Jasmeen James
Clytemnestra – Penelope Day
Hecuba – Ursula Mohan
Helen – Emily Sitch
Iphigenia – Hannah Kerin
Menelaus – Joseph O’Malley

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