Timon of Athens

Giulia Galastro 19 February 2010

Corpus Playroom, Mainshow 7.00pm Tues 16th-Sat 20th February 2010-02-19


The text of Timon has long befuddled scholars: is it a tragedy? A problem play? Was it even written by Shakespeare? Unfortunately this production left its audience similarly bemused.

It started promisingly. The story of a man living beyond his means whose fickle friends desert him along with his fortune seemed topical, a link director Morgan Ring reinforces with the business suits and FT worn and rustled by the cast. It soon became apparent, though, why this play is so seldom staged. The transition from banqueting hall to cave is inherently tricky: the minimalist set – four blocks clunkily shunted into various configurations – manages to convey neither the opulence of one nor the desolation of the other.

Convincing performances might have transcended this setting; these do not. George Greenbury should be given credit for taking on the title role at relatively short notice, but the pristine white shirt he keeps on in the second act makes him look more like he has taken a wrong turn after a May Ball than turned his back on humanity. His scrabbling in the dirt is painful to watch: we cannot help but feel that he is hoping vainly to find his lines etched onto the stage.

The continued devotion of his servant Flavius (James Sharpe) thus seems as unjustified as that of Smithers for Mr Burns, though Sharpe’s portrayal is sensitive.

Meabh Maguire has some nice moments as the demanding Senator, especially in the final battle scene. This is also the only point when the production feels at home in the Playroom, the rumbling sound and flickering lights creating a real sense of confinement.

These flashes, though, are not enough to rescue the show. This is a rare opportunity to see this challenging play in performance; sadly, its challenges are not surmounted.

Giulia Galastro