Trojan Women has the potential to be quite boring. In true Greek tragic style, it is principally made up of monologues, some of which are entirely narrative. Poor actors could decimate the play’s beautiful language and destroy any prospect of a profound impact; but fortunately the Corpus Playroom was devoid of poor actors this evening.
Naturally, all eyes were on Hecuba (Georgie Henley), who was at the centre of a web of wronged women. Her opening speeches were slightly wooden ,almost weak, however, she very rapidly grew into her role, displaying her stunning emotional range and superb grasp of tone. Ultimately, it was an excellent performance, overshadowed only by that of Rhianna Frost, who dazzled as Cassandra. Moreover, the two male members of the cast, Ryan Monk and Jack Ranson, were both admirably conscious of the audience – something crucial to engagement in a space as intimate as The Corpus Playroom.
The only quibble one might have with the casting was the decision to have Talthybius – the messenger who bears news of Agamemnon’s will to Hecuba – portrayed by an actress. Kennedy Bloomer’s depiction was undoubtedly good; however, in a play that dwells on the suffering of women at the hands of men, discernible femininity marred the presentation of the key male character.
The tropes of agony, reflection and subjugation were effectively woven into the piece, largely thanks to the thoughtful set and sparing use of movement. Indeed, if anything the movement was too exaggerated at times, with evidently contrived choreography jarring with the raw emotion pouring from the characters. Nevertheless, it brought the dialogue of the work to life, meaning that even as the pace began to drag in the final third, the audience remained engaged.
One visual device that didn’t work so well was the use of UV in Cassandra’s scene; as the lights went down, little was visible, which became more prohibitive as the scene went on. Moreover, when the lights went up, Cassandra was left looking faintly outlandish, her skin covered in painted UV flowers that would be more at home in Glastonbury than Euripides’ Troy.
This play would be worth seeing just to hear the linguistic beauty and at times mesmerising rhythm of Euripides’ harrowing, poetic lament performed by a fine cast. The – flawed but effective – visual presentation of the play is an added bonus.
Trojan Women is the mainshow at The Corpus Playroom until Saturday; earlier in the week, The Cambridge Student spoke exclusively to Sarah Mercer, the director.