Edinburgh Fringe 2012
The tale of Greek tragedy is told wrapped up in a folklore approach, in a Morris Dancing style that gently brings us the story of how one woman was forced to sacrifice her son to the Gods whilst the women round her chimed the storyline and hoped for the mercy of the Gods.
Euripides’ tragedy will seldom be given a gentler focus than this rendering of the tale. We are welcomed by the travelling players who inform us that they shall spend the next hour of our time with them telling the oft told story of Helen, Troy and how the Gods fought and squabbled. And that is what we hear and see. Our storytellers are charming. They are not however charming enough to convince me that the story to be told is should be housed in this gentle humour.
The major issues I had with this was the way in which it was told. This was no attempt at Brechtian technique. There was no distance to be created; it was exactly as described. They would through each player playing the parts ascribed tell the story. The performances were in that style and it therefore jarred. There are big issues in Trojan Women, and need the gravitas that comes with the telling of them. This was like hearing a Country and Western song about a successful marriage. It was simply wrong.
Yet it would be equally wrong not to recognise that the actors were convincing, their performances charm itself but they needed much more passion to convey the desperation of their circumstances. That would have had to break free of the straitjacket they found themselves in. Their song was well worked and well rehearsed but to go from the despair of losing your son, to being the happy, smiley and clappy travelling player as you were leaving was as stretch not for the actor but in credibility for the audience.
The staging was clever enough though the book confused me. I liked the use of the story book when telling of the Horse and Helen but thereafter I was unsure of its purpose. The leit motif of the cards seem simple enough and the ending is to be commended as it did set up the possibility that all was not as settled as it ought to be. The players acting through costume out of suitcases was far from original but to be fair it fitted their overall style and there was some ingenuity in the application of the cards and the puppetry.
I do not think that this version of Trojan Women would demand a second production. It may go down as one that was an interesting take on the story but not really one that should be dusted off the shelf and given another airing. Never mind there are plenty of productions where critics have suggested that and they are now staples in our diet of excellent theatre I would eat my hat if this became one of them.
The audience may have been small and perfectly formed but they were appreciative and found it a charming experience. I found it a confusing one at times but relaxed and allowed the performances to carry me rather than the obvious fight I was having to reconcile between the Pims and Cricket approach and the blood guts and gore story. It made it all the more enjoyable to just let it wash over me.
This is a young company fully deserving of support to try and fuse the undergraduate, graduate and post graduate cast as they try and make their mark on theatre and their respective careers. This is one production that was an interesting stop on their journey and I hope they see it as a learning experience rather than their final destination.