REVIEW: Trojan Barbie
Justin Yang was enchanted by Trojan Barbie, a timely and haunting meditation on the timeless themes of conflict and suffering
Trojan Barbie is utterly captivating, prompting audience members to think about conflict, both ancient and modern, and the ways in which human suffering is both timeless and felt unequally by men and women.
During the first half of the play, the action alternates between the past and the present. Between the violence of the Trojan War and the plight of hapless Lotte (Lucy Dickson) who finds herself in danger whilst on vacation.
The play begins with Lotte fussing over her packing for a singles’ getaway to Troy. As she packs, other cast members representing women of the Trojan War stand still in the dark in the foreground like living dolls.
As Lotte exits the initial scene, these women come to life, conveying the full range of human suffering following the Sack of Troy. Hecuba (Bethan Davidson) has lost her husband and most of her children, except the rebellious Polly X (Alice Carlill) and Cassandra (Emma Corrin).
The other Trojan women, Max, Clea, Esme, Zoe, and Ayla, all speak of their losses – brothers, husbands, children – as they grow aware that they are to be claimed as the spoils of war.
Helen of Troy (Rebecca Thomas) is separate from the other women as she is blamed for the war (though she contemptuously claims that they only hate her because she is a foreigner). She is a femme fatale, seducing her captors and owning the stage in every scene in which she appears.
Scenes involving the Greek soldiers, Mica, Talthybius, Max, and Jorge, are particularly bleak. In a play primarily concerned with the stories of women, the Greek soldiers represent the unrepentant nature of conflict. Max (Ronald Prokes) and Jorge (Ben Martineau) are tasked with escorting Polly X to be ritually sacrificed in order to calm the sandstorms which surround the camps, whilst Talthybius (Joe Spence) carries out the orders of Mica (Harrison MacNeill) at the camp.
Though the soldiers occasionally demonstrate sympathy towards the Trojan women, their actions cause more suffering than comfort.
The entire cast was highly polished, though a few standout performances must be praised. Davidson as Hecuba was breathtaking – she effortlessly and passionately rails against the suffering inflicted by the Greek soldiers as she cries out in her mother’s grief.
Kate Marston, as Andromache, similarly shines as she shares the pain of Hecuba – the loss of her family – while also attempting to maintain her dignity despite her captivity.
Dickson is a very talented actress, offering comic relief in an otherwise serious play, and providing a contrasting view to that of the Trojan women. As her character exists in the modern day, Dickson carries the immense task of bridging the past with the present, knitting together the disparate threads of the play into a narrative that evokes modern conflicts. She does so with admirable flair.
The set design for Trojan Barbie was inventive, with most of the action happening in the foreground stage and some peripheral use of an elevated background stage. Dismembered Barbie dolls were strewn across the stage and hung from the ceiling, ostensibly representing the bodies of the dead.
Though the symbolism was readily apparent, there were, perhaps, a tad too many Barbie dolls, sometimes obscuring cast members. The clever use of projection allowed the incorporation of scenes from modern-day news coverage of the Syrian conflict, which grounded the play’s dialogue in very contemporary terms.
All in all, Trojan Barbie forces audience members to ponder about the timeless nature of conflict, the ways in which human suffering is transcendent, and how women and children bear such suffering even after the final curtain call. This production is sophisticated, well-acted, and highly recommended.