More Greeks and Trojans than you can Shake-a-speare at
Most of you are aware that Shakespeare wrote a play called Troilus and Cressida, although far less of you will have actually seen it staged. You might have heard it […]
Most of you are aware that Shakespeare wrote a play called Troilus and Cressida, although far less of you will have actually seen it staged. You might have heard it labelled as one of Shakespeare’s ‘problem plays’. Others have (less kindly) said that it’s simply not very good. Enter Lewis Harding and Chris Cannell, who have decided to direct in what is often regarded as our ‘problem theatre’, Venue 1.
The idea to move the prologue into the lobby made for an unexpected opening to the play. It was nice to see the prologue used as a way to set the ‘tragicomic’ tone as the soldier suddenly straightened up to demand our tickets. Inside, they’d made good use of the space, using tiers and lighting to divide the stage into three and generally making good use of a space that is difficult to use.
The scale of the play is ambitious. Shakespeare didn’t really go for brevity in his attempt to condense the Trojan War into a play. With a cast of 28 and with all those Greeks and Trojans running around it could have been confusing if not for the clear costuming, which added a touch of soldierly uniformity but had been given enough thought to make each character clearly identifiable.
With such a large number of actors, there was the danger that scenes could become overcrowded and static. The attempts to inject movement into these scenes were welcome, although at points noise and blocking detracted from the speaker, which is a shame because there are some wonderful speeches hidden in this play. On the whole, the movement between comedy and tragedy was well handled. It was evident that much time had been spent on line delivery and in ensuring that actors had an understanding of meaning. As a result the cast achieved laughs from the audience when required, and sustained attention during political scenes.
More than that though, the actors seemed to be having a lot of fun, all working well together and ensuring that even when an errant sword decided to lodge itself firmly into the floor, they carried on. The sheer amount of time that must have gone into choreographing all those fight scenes wants praising too (probably almost as much time as the poor production team must have spent filling in risk assessments).
Cannell, Harding & co. have succeeded in putting up the most lucid version of Troilus and Cressida that I’ve seen. The play demonstrates the thought and ambition of the directors, who ensure that the major themes of the play come through whilst clearly having a great time doing so.