stf Theatre | Troilus & Cressida
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Troilus & Cressida

2003

Troilus & Cressida

Directed by Andrew Hilton
06 February – 15 March 2003

Production Photos © 2003 Alan Moore

Thanks to a grant from the Fenton Arts Trust we were able to increase our company of actors to 20 for this production, which we set in the early years of the 20th century.

 

CAST

The Trojans

Eric Jay  Priam
Mark Buffery  Hector
Rupert Ward Lewis  Paris 
Dan Winter  Helenus/Margarelon
Joseph Mawle  Troilus
Jonathan Nibbs  Aeneas
Ian Barritt  Pandarus
Peter Clifford  Calchas
Saskia Portway  Andromache
Amanda Horlock  Cassandra
Lisa Kay  Cressida
Dan Winter  Alexander
Eric Jay  Of Helen’s Court
Richard Stephenson  Priam’s Servant

The Greeks
John Nicholas  Agamemnon
Alex MacLaren  Menelaus
Paul Nicholson  Nestor
John Mackay  Ulysses 
Alisdair Simpson  Achilles
Tom Sherman  Ajax 
Chris Donnelly  Diomedes
Mark Hesketh  Patroclus
Jamie Ballard  Thersites
Saskia Portway  Helen

Musicians
Richard Stevenson
Matt Sibley
Vicci Burke
Saskia Portway

PRODUCTION

Director Andrew Hilton
Designer Andrea Montag
Lighting Designer Paul Towson
Composer Elizabeth Purnell
Edition Dominic Power
Fight Director Kate Waters
Fight Captain Peter Clifford
Scenic Artist Francesca Maxwell
Costume Supervisor Jane Tooze
Costume Maintenance Jaqui Jones
Costume Laundry Kim Winter

Production Manager Clive Stevenson
Stage Manager Amy Bull
Technical Stage Manager Christian Wallace
Assistant Stage Manager Polly Meech

REVIEWS

The Sunday Times  … In Shakespeare’s Troilus & Cressida, Hector is just as brainwashed as poor Iphigenia. He wants to end the war and hand Helen back; he knows that it is mad idolatry to make the service greater than the god; but when push comes to shove, the macho pride of the fighting man proved stronger than decent humanity. Andrew Hilton’s tough, eloquently paced and intellectually searching production presents the complex argument with complete clarity. He and his actors prove, once again, that to be popular, Shakespeare need not be, should not be, overdirected, tricksy or shallow. In one way, Ian Barritt’s majestically louche Pandarus is the central character of the play. Pale, fleshy, imperious and prurient, he’s a selfimportant old fruit who exists through the erotic and heroic life of others. He is, indeed, a “trader of the flesh”, and the phrase is a metaphor for the whole play. What is war but a trade in human flesh, where the profits are as monstrous and futile as the losses? The other key figure is John Mackay’s sceptical Ulysses: political animal and cautious moralist. I have not seen his two great speeches, about order and about political survival more intelligently delivered. Joseph Mawle plays Troilus as a tense, wiry young bruiser who tries hard, in public, to hide his innocence: his losing it is the story of the play. Lisa Kay plays Cressida as a gently voluptuous girl with a sense of humour and playful innocence. Her losing it is also the story of the play. Kay handles the kissing scene in the Greek camp particularly well: this is the moment of that loss, and it is male military values of pride and power that spark it off.  John Peter

★★★★ The Times  WAR and lechery are the joint themes here, so closely jointed that Shakespeare sees them as inseparable. Trojans and Greeks alike are hellbent on sex or slaughter; the young Troilus is frantic for achievements in both, and only the scabby Thersites, prowling around the edges of the action, sees the rot at the heart. Troilus and Cressida is a large play, large in its issues and its cast, but constraints of this sort are seemingly brushed aside by Andrew Hilton and the company he founded, Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory. For four years, always at this otherwise cheerless time of year, he has directed excellent casts in a brace of Shakespeares, generally matched sweet and sour. They are staged in the middle of this former factory floor, where the audience sits so close to the actors that we are aware of every blink.
One reason for Hilton’s success lies in his ability to fit face to character. Study the heads of these Trojans in their field-grey uniforms, these quarrelsome Greeks in their khaki, and their inner nature is plain to grasp: the craggy profile and frozen half-smile of Eric Jay’s Priam, Alisdair Simpson’s Byronic hauteur as Achilles, Tom Sherman’s bullfrog Ajax. Even with Ulysses, that master of deceits, John Mackay’s carefully genial features suggest a swift-witted Scot steeped in Presbyterian misogyny, making his outburst against Cressida both credible and revealing. Andrea Montag’s set turns the four structural supports for the floor above into bright white columns that suggest either Greek tent poles or an elegant Trojan interior, and the columns rise from plinths decorated with the ancient world’s equivalent of Betty Grable.
Hilton introduces animating touches. In Lisa Kay’s exquisitely heartfelt Cressida, for example, her fondly mocking glances at Pandarus tell us how shrewdly she sees through his absurdities … Joseph Mawle gives us a mainly unsympathetic Troilus, though I was unsure how intentional this was … Jamie Ballard’s Thersites is a vividly scour scourge. And it is not some victorious prince but Ian Barritt’s ripe and now rotten Pandarus who utters the play’s last words, his parting gift not glory but disease. Jeremy Kingston

★★★ The Guardian  There is probably no more pertinent a time for a revival of Shakespeare’s story of the Trojan war than now. It offers not just a sharp reminder that war involves, as the clown Thersites puts it, “too much blood and too little brain” but also that war corrupts even those who begin it with honourable intent and what they perceive as just cause. After 10 long years of fighting, the moral landscape of Shakespeare’s play is one of futility and corruption. Even heroes such as Hector make bad judgments, or, like Achilles, turn to petulance and treachery.
With its Edwardian setting, Andrew Hilton’s production leaves the audience to make its own connections between the world of the play and our own, and while you might regret the missed opportunity to make a strong political point, the evening has many other things to recommend it. There is never a line in a Hilton production that isn’t crystal clear, a word that you don’t understand …The great love affair in this play is not between the impetuous Troilus and the girlishly romantic Cressida, or between Helen and Paris (played here with gushing giddiness) but between men and war. They have all gone insane, and it is the women, particularly Cressida, who pay the price. She, beautifully realised by Lisa Kay, may be a little fool, in thrall to the idea of romantic love, but she is a mere pawn. The way she is received into the Greek camp falls far short of a gang bang, but it feels as if you are watching one. Hard experience pretty quickly tells her she must protect herself the only way she can. The scene between her and Diomedes is terrifically done: in her body language you can see that her heart and head are telling her completely different things. There are plenty of other fine performances, too: Ian Barritt is a silky smooth Pandarus, Alisdair Simpson a man-mountain of an Achilles. John MacKay’s Ulysses is a man whose apparent reasonableness and ability to talk sense disguises something steelier and possibly much nastier. Lyn Gardner

DIRECTOR’S NOTE

Dying for Love
The Elizabethan double-meaning for ‘death’ – sexual orgasm – may commonly have been employed merely to provoke knowing laughter in the tavern scenes of the city comedies and elsewhere.  But the origin of this coincidence, in a single syllable, of the moment of sexual ecstasy with the moment of annihilation lies deep in our psyche. And it goes to the heart of this extraordinary play about the stupidity and cupidity of war.  Frequently – most markedly in Macbeth and Coriolanus – Shakespeare likened killing to sexual rape (thereby making killing seem all the more appalling); but here, where the language of sex permeates war – and vice versa – and the language of both are debased by the language of trade and merchandise, for the first time he sets his characters adrift in an anarchy of metaphor.  As they struggle to assert faiths and hold to principles, but are ruled instead by their instincts – by their cupidity, their vanity, their bloodlust and their vengefulness – their language speaks one meaning even as they believe they express another.  And the fundamental realities of sex and death in this ‘war for a placket’, as Thersites so indelicately defines it, converge, diverge and converge again.