Love parallels war in this play, and in Troilus and Cressida, love seems to be the root of why wars are fought to begin with. In the back-story, Helen of Sparta left her husband Menelaus for Paris of Troy – sparking the Trojan War. In the seventh year of the Trojan War – and where this play begins – a Trojan prince named Troilus falls in love with Cressida, the daughter of a Trojan priest who has defected to the Greek side. The Greek army meanwhile are experiencing low morale as their idolized warrior Achilles seems to have put down (her) sword, and diverted attention towards best friend and lover Patroclus.
Troilus and Cressida is considered to be one of Shakespeare’s problem plays – perhaps because it is neither entirely a love story or historical drama – blending a number of classical myths into the one (Helen of Troy, Troilus and Cressida, Achilles and Hector, and Ulysses). The lovers in this play seems to come secondary to the conflict of war, and the way human nature is portrayed in this play – seems a selfish and deceitful one. Comedy shines through in particular characters such as the quick-tongued slave Thersites who seems to call people for what they are, and Ajax – a warrior full of bravado more so than fighting skill or intellect. Other characters provide the audience with more philosophy and intellect. The Greek commander Ulysses for instance is manipulative and clever in his speech – arousing the warriors around him to continue in fight.
The audience enters the world of Troilus and Cressida that hints of the era in simplicity – with earth, sandstone and draped material lining the walls. The set design and costuming by Maya Keys is gorgeous – a sensational blend between old and new world, classy and consistent throughout. The music and sound design is creative and also in sync in its flavours of the past and the present. The world created in this production is an enticing one, visually beautiful and involving.
All of the performers in this production deliver the story together with urgency, commitment and connection to their audience. Highlights were Margarita Gershkovich as Achilles and Emma Wright as Patroclus – individually they were fascinating to watch as performers, and their chemistry as lovers and warriors was glorious to witness. Shan-Ree Tan’s Ulysses had the audience listening to every word, his speeches were most enjoyable and delivered expertly. Charles Upton created an intriguing portrayal as Pandarus, comedic and at times a more imposing influence. Danen Young as the cheeky slave Thersites was a joy to watch, his dedication and commitment was outstanding and his exuberant energy a welcome reprieve to some of the heavier themes of the play.
Director Sean O’Riordan states in his director notes that as much as Troilus and Cressida is considered to be a problem play, ‘there is a wonderful world that has much to offer.’ Production Company Secret House has taken a courageous leap in presenting this play to give the audience a Shakespearean production that not many people have had the opportunity to see before, or in fact know much about. And what an opportunity that is for all involved, and for everyone who comes to see it.
Troilus and Cressida is on until 19 May at The Depot Theatre, for more information and tickets see: http://thedepottheatre.com/troilus-and-cressida
Featuring: Paul Armstrong, Alec Ebert, Matthew Bartlett, Jane Angharad, Romney Stanton, Emilia Stubbs-Grigoriou, Alison Benstead, Francisco Lopez, Charles Upton, Alana Birtles, Shan-ree Tan, Jonathon Nicholas, Leo Domigan, Margarita Gershkovich, Grace Naoum, Emma Wright, Danen Young, James Smithers and Robery Gray.
Creative/Tech Team: William Shakespeare (playwright), Sean O’Riordan (director), Maya Keys (set and costume design), Mehran Mortezai (lighting design), Liz Jemeson (stage manager), Milly Grindrod (stage manager), Scottie Witts (fight choreographer), Virginia Ferris (movement), Jill Brown (voice) and Rodney Smithers (set builder).