Trojan Women

WILL POPPLEWELL thinks this production shines.

Corpus greek popplewell sarah mercer trojan women

Corpus Playrooms, 7 PM, April 6th – 10th, £6/5.

Trojan Women describes the aftermath of the Trojan War, focussing upon its effects on the women of the city.  A slow exposition was well and truly forgotten by the time Cassandra (Rhianna Frost) swept onto the stage, to deliver the first in a series of powerhouse performances, as the women of Troy are subjugated one by one by the Greeks, represented by Talthybius (Kennedy Bloomer).

In a year of Cambridge theatre criticised for its lack of female roles, Trojan Women showcased an impressive array of talented actresses, and two actors lest they be forgotten. Indeed, director Sarah Mercer decided to give the role of Talthybius to a woman, and the resulting effect was conceptually effective and emotionally powerful. Even were it not for these successes, the gender reversal of the role would have been worth it anyway, if solely for Bloomer’s fantastically nuanced performance.

Alongside Bloomer and Frost, whilst the entire cast impressed individually, Eleanor Mack blew me away, delivering an incredibly compelling performance as Andromache; her work with Andromache’s son (Will Maillou), was truly the highlight of the show, ending in a harrowing scene that have to see for yourself. Georgie Henley also delivered a raw and accomplished performance in the lead role of Hecuba. Principals and chorus alike, the acting was superb across the board.

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Visually, the show was hit and miss. The set was beautiful to look at, though I could not relate it to the show in a way that enhanced my enjoyment of the show, or engagement with the themes. Conversely, the costumes and masks respectively foregrounded the characters’ individualities, and their eventual homogeneity. The costumes for Cassandra, Talthybius, and Helen were particularly effective.

The use of physical theatre was a decision which, personally, felt incongruous with the emotional side of the play. It was not a distraction, nor did it negatively affect the experience; however, it slowed the pace at times, and jarred with the profound issues that the characters are facing. An example of this was the strobe-lighting sequence which impressed me, but also confused me as to why it was included. That said, at times the physical theatre worked well, namely during Cassandra’s fiery performance, and the moving scene between Andromache and her son.

Mercer’s directorial debut is a hard-hitting, intense piece of theatre, and a resounding success. The audience was surprisingly robust for a Corpus opening night, thanks no doubt to the ceaseless circulation of Hannah Taylor’s wonderful publicity, and they appreciated the play very audibly. This is not a play to go and see if you are looking for something serenely beautiful after Pimms and punting; however, if you are interested in a moving and dramatically impressive piece of art, then I cannot recommend Trojan Women highly enough.