Friday, October 19, 2018

'Troilus and Cressida' by William Shakespeare

19 October 2018

This week I ticked off one of the diminishing number of Shakespeare plays I had never seen, with Gregory Doran’s new RSC production of ‘Troilus and Cressida’ which we saw at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon on Thursday. Shakespeare throws us straight into the Trojan War with the Prologue explaining that we are “beginning in the middle”. He manages to incorporate almost every ancient Greek character you have heard of: Agamemnon, Menelaus, Ulysses, Paris, Hector, Priam, Achilles, Patroclus, Cassandra, Helen et al. Doran’s production is set in a steampunk, ‘Mad Max’ version of Troy, complete with motorbikes and shipping containers (standing in for the Greek army’s tents). He squeezes as much comedy as possible from this brutal tale of war, with Sheila Reid’s Thersites as a Janette Krankie Shakespearean Fool, somewhat incongruous amongst the Greek warriors. ‘Troilus and Cressida’ is an odd play – a mixture of history, comedy and tragedy with recognisable elements of other Shakespeare plays (‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Henry IV Part One’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ etc) transposed to ancient Greece. It’s not his greatest work but the RSC production is impressive, with an original musical score for four percussionists by Evelyn Glennie (her first composition for the stage). And RSC veteran Oliver Ford Davies steals the show as Pandarus – a very funny performance as the kind of bumbling old fool that he specialises in: nobody does Oliver Ford Davies better than Oliver Ford Davies!

'Troilus and Cressida' will be broadcast live from Stratford-upon-Avon to cinemas on 14 November.

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