helen head

Helen

Malvern Theatres

****

ACTORS of Dionysus have been breathing fresh life into Ancient Greek drama for more than twenty years.

With Helen they transpose the enigmatic Helen of Troy to a besieged twenty first century city, where we watch her struggle with her own sanity and the rôle that she has played in the war which plays out around her.

Kept company solely by a mysteriously unspeaking man who could be her carer, lover, prison guard or slave, Helen, now past her better documented younger days, fights to survive and escape the violence which seems to follow her wherever she goes.

We witness her suffering from nightmares, and her companion restrains and medicates her, although we are never sure whose orders he is acting upon. As the drama unfolds, we learn the violent truth behind his inability to speak, and hear of other atrocities he has suffered.

An interesting piece of physical theatre, Helen combines drama, movement and aerial skills which had many audience members transfixed. There is no doubt that Tamsin Shasha (who plays Helen and co-devised the production with director Jonathan Young) and her fellow performer Tyler Fayose are highly skilled in many areas, both with training in circus arts as well as acting.

Helen’s four-poster bed serves as the setting throughout and makes for a pretty rig for the characters to move around, fight in, climb on and swing from. Use of the bed’s drapes as aerial silks was clever, and the actors’ strength and agility was exploited well by choreographer Jami Reid-Quarrell, although I would have preferred more emphasis on this physicality and less on the story.

There is much in this production about passion and the mess of war, blame and responsibility, perceptions of beauty and the status of aging women, and I suspect that the more familiar an audience is with the original mythical tales and subsequent retellings, the more nuances would be enjoyed in the piece, as the cast and creative team evidently have an in-depth love and fascination for this ambiguous heroine.

Fellow audience members commented on the “beautiful physical theatre”, and rated Shasha in particular as “brilliant”, although I personally was not at all drawn in emotionally, which is something I would hope for from a production with such potentially emotive themes.

I seemed to be in the minority though, so if you’re a fan of Greek legends, physical theatre or innovative work then this is certainly worth watching. The current run for Helen seems to be very short, so keep an eye on the Actors of Dionysus website for further tours and other productions.

After just two nights in Malvern, Helen moves on to Bridge House Theatre at Warwick School (May 12-13) and then Hove (May 16-19)

Amy Rainbow

11-5-16 

Index page Malvern Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre