Review: ‘Last Days of Troy’

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Despite a preshow of a light summer shower, The Last Days of Troy occurs without further incident despite the pitfalls that so plague outdoor theatre. No lights, no soundtrack, and in the open air, all that was missing from this production of Simon Armitage’s retelling of Homer’s Iliad was a chorus and for John Duffet’s Zeus to be delivered on stage via a literal deus ex machina. The decision to use an outdoor venue really brings to life the classical traditions of Greek theatre to a charming effect.  As long as the god of storms continues to smile proudly on the production, the viewing experience of the show will remain just as genuine, though I doubt a bit of rain would deter such a determined production.

The opening group scenes are staged and blocked somewhat awkwardly. The actors are aware they should be moving, but often did so without purpose or intent. However, like most of the show it eventually comes into its own as the play carries on. To that effect it seems like the fatigue of the production and the post exams season seems to have taken an expected and understandable toll on the cast leading to a few rocky starts as characters are introduced, but after they find their stage presence, they eventually make the roles their own. Ed Cook, in his portrayal of Achilles, hits its stride during the aggressive outbursts known to the demigod leading to a few spine-chilling moments. However, the more tender moments he shares with Patroclus, Darrius Kudiabor-Thompson, and following Patroclus’ death leave me desiring a more vivid emotional range beyond the rage.

Duffet’s godly narration captures the true essence of Homeric storytelling. Such booming monologues emphasise the partially swallowed lines from some of the other authors. The wide-open spaces of the amphitheatre make adequate projection even more of a necessity. Though in general the biting dialogue and facial expressions of Harry Scholes’ Odysseus is delivered very well and succeeds in capturing the wit of classical Odysseus and Niamh Hanns’ Andromache captures Armitage’s vision for a clear antagonism between her and Helen, portrayed by Amy Porter. Porter’s enchanting rendition of Helen’s Grecian song adds a sombre understanding over the war’s tragic futility. Hera and Zeus’s marital squabbles offer a human side of their immortal conflicts and their actors here succeed in creating a dynamic layer to the pair’s complicated history and at times becoming the comic relief of the tragedy. It is worth mentioning that poetry imbedded in live theatre is a tricky business. The flow of the metre and rhymes can get lost quite easily among the sound and fury of the production and so it is very difficult to maintain the poetry that slips in and out through out the work. ’s Priam captures the poetry of his lines with expert precision. The ultimate clash between Achilles and Hector, portrayed by Jude Wegerer, is staggered and inorganic, occurring because it was in the script, but not for any successful purpose. This was a shame as Wegerer brought the role of Hector to life with a human portrayal of all the aspects and flaws the play allows. With such a large cast it is impossible to properly critique and praise them all, but in general the actors succeed in instilling new life into the classical tale.

Overall the show was entertaining, with the right group of people and the right snacks, the trek to Wharton park’s Amphitheatre is well worth it. The cast and crew should be pleased with their efforts and pour a libation on the third night to mark the passing a well done show.

DUCT’s The Last Days of Troy is at 6:30pm at Wharton Park on 20-21st June.

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