Friday, April 28, 2023

TROILUS AND CRESSIDA - Daramalan Theatre Company.


Lily Steinman (Nestor) - Oscar Lee (Diomedes)  - Jennifer Noveski (Agamemnon)
 Lachlan Faella (Ajax) - Diarmid McArdle (Achilles)

By William Shakespeare.

Produced, Directed and Designed by Joe Woodward

Adapted by Tony Allan – Music composer Jo Philp

McCowage Hall, Daramalan College – 21st to 29th April.

Performance on 27th April reviewed by Bill Stephens.

Lily Steinman (Priam) - Zachary Olsen (Hector) -Patrick Edwards (Troilus)
"Troilus and Cressida"

It seemed a brave choice by the Daramalan Theatre Company to tackle “Troilus and Cressida” because this play is generally regarded as one of Shakespeare’s problem plays.

The play is steeped in the mythology of ancient Greece and the Iliad, and set in the later years of the Trojan War. But as most of the characters are heroes, warriors, Gods or Goddesses, mostly around the ages of the young actors portraying them, the play provides the actors with compelling reasons to steep themselves in research of all things Greek.

Also, the plot revolves around a young Trojan couple engaged in a doomed love affair, therefore a Greek romcom no less. What could be more fun?

But best of all, because it is a “problem” play, “Troilus and Cressida” is rarely produced so very few of the audience would have seen it before, and therefore come along with no fixed idea of what is going to happen or how it should be presented.  

Fortunately for both the actors and the audience, the production is in the hands of a very experienced director, Joe Woodward, who has come up with a remarkable concept which works a treat. 

The play itself is presented on a raised circular stage, with some of the audience seated, cabaret style around three sides of the stage. A ramp is positioned at the back for the actors to enter and exit. At the back of the stage canvases painted with abstract designs and a large television screen help provide atmosphere.

The actors wear striking costumes, some in steam punk style, the Greeks, others more conventionally, the Trojans. Each costume is individually designed, making it easy to differentiate the Greeks from the Trojans and to recognise each individual character as the play progresses.  

While there is not a lot of on-stage action in the play, Woodward makes excellent use of the set and costumes to create a series of striking stage pictures with his actors, ensuring that the production is  at all times visually engaging.

The play contains many long speeches, and it is obvious that a lot of work has gone into the delivery of these speeches. In this regard, Diarmid McArdle is outstanding as Achilles. His every word is crystal clear, and his phrasing exemplary, making his performance a stand-out. Harrison Labouchardiere, as the conniving Aeneas, also impressed with his diction and characterisation.

As the title characters, Patrick Edwards was excellently cast as the hero, Troilus. Movie star looks, dignified bearing and excellent vocal delivery stamps him as an actor to watch.

Kathleen Dunkerley (C) (Cressida) and members of the company in "Troilus and Cressida"

 Similarly Kathleen Dunkerley, who offered a compelling portrayal as the mentally tortured Cressida, fascinated with her ability to express the characters inner-torment. Their long scene together, which climaxes the first act, when they begin to realise their feelings for each other, is beautifully realised.

Among the rest of the cast of thoroughly engaged, well-drilled performers, Jennifer Noveski, for her fiercely powerful Agamemnon, Lachlan Faella as Ajax and Jack Curry, quite masterly as Pandarus, all offer stand-out performances.

Particularly interesting aspects of this production are the atmospheric soundscape by Jo Philp and the witty  script adaptation and narration by Tony Allan which makes it considerably easier to follow the action, while solving quite a deal of the ‘problem’.

The narration was given by Lucy O’Neill, who also plays a character called Thersites. O’Neill commences the show unexpectedly with a loaded, bluesy version of the Nina Simone song “Feeling Good”, then wanders nonchalantly through the play, commenting on the action, explaining what is going on, and even arguing with some of the characters.

O’Neill is excellent in the role, but should work to overcome her tendency to speak too quickly, and drop the ends of her lines. This would ensure that more of the narration is heard.

“Troilus and Cressida” ends with a master-stroke. Referencing the opening moments, Jack Curry as Pandarus closes the show with an ironic saxophone reprise of the song, “Feeling Good”.

If you’ve never seen this play before, this imaginatively devised and presented production of “Troilus and Cressida” offers a rare opportunity to mark this seldom produced Shakespeare play off your bucket list.