Review: Troilus and Cressida

A production not worth bothering with, even if you’re an English student trying to skip on some revision.

Troilus and Cressida, Friends of Peterhouse Theatre, 27th – 29th November, Co-Directed by Wei Tzen Sam and Xavier Buxton


This was very nearly a review entitled ‘The First Half of Troilus and Cressida’ but my conscience made me stay.  It showcased a standard of acting so dire it was as though an ambitious primary school teacher had scrapped the nativity in favour of a Shakespeare.  Sure, there are the kids who have potential but they are so far off fulfilling it and got lost in a really dire, nervous crowd.

The absolute bottom of this deep pit was Xavier Buxton’s terrible, anxious Pandarus, with his upper arms stuck to his sides and forearms waving madly.  Incredibly this is the same Xavier Buxton who co-directed the show, which makes its rare merits quite remarkable.  Some of the actors barely knew their lines, pacing up and down with scripts in the interval.   So much of what they did know was muttered or inaudible, said to the back wall, from behind a thick grey beard or in a quiet and ridiculous Italian accent.  Mary Matthias’ hysterical Cassandra was completely incomprehensible, raving like a mad drunk.  Some were above the low average; Tom Smith’s Ajax and James Barwise’s Achilles were good, Joe Hardy’s Caliban like Thersites was really engaging and though Will Seaward’s Agamemnon stood out starkly, with a booming voice that would terrify the RSC, he was welcome relief.   Over-acting was an improvement on no acting.  The design was clever for a low budget production with some nice costumes, though the girls playing men’s skinny jeans, fitted blazers and waisted belts felt a bit noncommittal. 

The first use of music was an hour in and then, inexplicably, it was the kind of jazz you might hear when you’re put on hold or in a lift.  When Pandarus and Cressida watch the soldiers march past the squeaking sound of the door opening made it impossible to take seriously.  In fact there were lots of moments I had to stifle giggles, sometimes unsuccessfully like when two characters walked on at the wrong cue, turned around and left.  At the interval a stagehand came on to tell us it was the interval and where the bar, which we ‘would need’, was.  I couldn’t quite believe the crew was publically proclaiming how badly we would want a drink.  Astoundingly she came back to warn us there was a Bop on, explaining the sinister Santa we found hidden away by the loos pulling scantily clad Santa girls onto his knee.   The stagehand made another appearance at the end to tell us it was the end, as if I didn’t already have my coat on. 

On the Camdram page Troilus and Cressida proclaims, ‘Come on all you lazy English thesps- this is by far the best way to revise for your Shakespeare exam.’  It’s not.  I want to say it’s a new take on the theory that if you put enough monkeys in a room with enough typewriters one day they will write Shakespeare – if you put enough people on stage for enough time there will be some moments that resemble acting.  But, I will concede that’s a little bit harsh.