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Derbhle Crotty as Hecuba and Ray Fearon as Agamemnon in Hecuba. Pictures: Topher McGrillis 

Hecuba

Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

***

MARINA Carr takes inspiration from the ancient classical account of Euripides’s Trojan Women and creates a modern revival, relevant to today and emotionally gripping.

The play looks promising as it starts, with a stylish set that consists of a mirrored wall upstage and a regal throne sitting in the centre, reminding us of the late king Priam.

The shiny stage designed by Soutra Balfour builds the bridge between the classical setting with Carr’s modern revival.

Derbhile Crotty’s Hecuba is instantly striking. In her delivery of the fateful character, we see a strong mother who will not let the tragedy of life defeat her easily. She is challenging and unyielding with every part of her delivery and an inspiration to behold.

She was matched by a cast in which every actor was fantastic in their part, with believable characterisation in the setting of ancient Greece giving beautiful performances throughout. Unfortunately, Erica Whyman’s direction did not do justice to the incredible work from the company, making this production flat and boring.

The cast is second to none, but this as undermined by the direction. The predictable transitions of scenes made it seem that actors merely entered the space to deliver their lines, and then leave again.

Carr aims to revive Euripides’ tale of the tragic Trojan Women, showing a viewpoint from ‘the other side’. In Carr’s story,Cassandra we see a mother left with nothing and women forced into slavery. This is an interesting concept, but there is a narration where characters recall the story of one another.

Its outcome shows an interesting poeticism, but it does not leave much to the imagination, as all action is recalled and not seen. The action that we do see however, for example Polyxena’s sacrifice is delivered with abstract tones that leave the audience wanting more.

Nadia Albina as Cassandra

Perhaps it is the language that creates a slow production with which it is hard to connect. Carr’s script uses a clever narration that shows the audience the ‘here-and-now’ accounts of the fall of Troy.

It is regal and poetic and definitely uses Euripides’ narrative influence.

The most recalled line is ‘he said/she said’, used by every actor on stage which when heard more than one hundred times, came across confusing and tedious.

The company are fantastic and make this production stand out. Agamemnon, played by the wonderful Ray Fearon, is the leader of the battle of Troy and comes across as the arrogant boss, sitting on King Priam’s throne without a care for the consequences of his actions.

We later learn that underneath this façade, we are exposed to a man plagued with an ongoing personal journey of fighting his own grief.

In his account of sacrificing his own daughter Iphigenia, Fearon is beautifully soft and effortlessly allows the many colours of the seemingly strong leader to be visible. Fearon is a joy to watch and in scenes when Agamemnon and Hecuba are alone, Fearon and Crotty are a fierce duo, creating gripping magic on stage.

Commendable performances are also seen by Nadia Albina who is the neglected oracle Cassandra. She was also seen this season in Othello and The Merchant of Venice, giving brilliant performances in both, and in Hecuba she is equally as strong. Amy McAllister’s Polyxena is just as enchanting, with a stoic obedience together with a girlish charm. Both sisters make up the family unit with strong Hecuba as their leader.

As a production, the play is interesting, with its modern reflection on an epic and classical tragedy. The company performed Carr’s daring script with a superb quality, but unfortunately, the script and direction did not celebrate this wonderful cast. To 17-10-15

Elizabeth Halpin

08-10-15 

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