‘The Trojan Women’ is a 415 BC tragedy by Macedonian Euripides, sometimes known as ‘Troades’ the play won second prize at the City Dionysia writing competition, losing to the obscure tragedian Xenocles.
When this play was first presented, just after the Peloponnesian War, it may well have had a 100% male cast, in contrast this feminist interpretation of the play is a poignant, lyrical retelling of the famous Greek tragedy. ‘The Trojan Women’, is one of a dozen ancient Greek classics adapted by Ellen McLaughlin.
This 45-minute production for adults is being presented by the Murdoch Theatre Company. It can be seen at 7.00 pm each evening until Saturday 29th June in Studio 411 next to Carpark 4, in Murdoch University grounds, 90 South Street, Murdoch.
The scene: Troy just after the Greek ten-year invasion that ended with the giant wooden horse in 1200 BC.
The Set: designed by Abbey McCaughan was symbolic and simple, but all that was required. A stone plinth surrounded by rubble, just after the Greek attack that ‘left no plant or building standing’.
Stage management by Stephanie Beckham. The production was overseen by Bee Tandy.
Sound and Lighting: Sabrina Wyatt’s technical design and operation was very good, but there were a couple of missed chances e.g. when the women point to the city on fire, a few flashing red and orange lamps would have helped the atmosphere. With the new lamps, where no gels are required, just some simple programming. The opportunities are endless.
A recording of a French folk singer with a soft whispering melodic voice set the mood before the show.
A mound of bruised and battered women asleep on the beach at Troy, recovering from the Greek army’s attack. The women know from history that after the war, which had now moved on to Melos (now called Milos) and Sicily, their fate will be capture and deportation to Athens as slaves.
Poseidon (Elizabeth Willow) states how he intends to attack the Greeks for them raping the Princess Cassandra.
However, the Trojan women have a strong leader in Queen Hecuba (Delicia Cooper), but her daughter is the barmy prophetess, Cassandra (Mazey O’Reilly) whose visions are rarely believed. The Queen’s son, Hector, was a brave warrior but he was slain in the turmoil; he left a wife, the Queen’s daughter-in-law Andromache (Amanda Ash) and their four-month-old son, Astyanax.
Hecuba tells the gathering of women how much she loves their country. Helen (Tarryn McGrath), although not one of the locals, is most supportive of the women and is devastated by the loss of their country too. However, the women are suspicious of Helen.
The play ends with a brief scene from the Iliad.
The other women in the group of friends were Berenike (Georgi Ivers), Dorcia (Maya Peranovic), Eugenia (Emilie Tiivel), Frona (Keira Oxby), Gaia (Hannah Anderson) and Harmonia (Teah Dunning) all of whom added greatly to the depth of emotion that was cleverly developed – unusually – over such a short play. Delicia and Amanda gave particularly powerful and tear-jerking performances. Congratulations to Tarryn and Mazey who really drove home their messages.
The cast included a few new to the stage actresses and a couple that I did not recognise but who were obviously highly experienced and exceptional. I don’t think that I have seen Delicia acting before, but she held the audience in total silence. Her diction, pace and enunciation were exceptional. Every actor had their moment of ‘glory’ with their individual monologues and well-choreographed movements.
An audience can soon tell how a cast feels towards their director; ‘dislike’ and the play becomes sloppy. A good director will give caring and detailed direction; it is clear these women have worked hard to ensure their best. Looking back over a couple of years, director Abbey McCaughan’s very different acting performances, first as the evil Abagail in the ‘Crucible’ and then Viola in ‘Twelfth Night’ shows that she has varied experience as an actor and so can direct with empathy.
A short play, but most moving.