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Troilus and Cressida (Susan Elkin reviews)

Troilus And Cressida
William Shakespeare. Performed by The Marlowe Youth Company
society/company: Marlowe Theatre
performance date: 07 Mar 2020
venue: Marlowe Theatre Studio, The Friars, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2AS

Staged by the ever-ambitious Marlowe Youth Company in the theatre’s studio space, this version of Troilius and Cressida features a huge cast of twenty-eight so it provides plenty of scope for these young actors, many of them in quite small roles. That means it isn’t always easy to work out who everyone is but it doesn’t matter much. And it’s both moving and encouraging to see such diverse participation – united by Shakespeare. I loved the gender-blind casting too. Caitlin Hatton, for example, was well cast as Ulysses.

Configured in-the-round with audience on all four sides with big panels featuring Grecian figures and shapes dominating two of them (design by Rachael A Smith), the Studio felt pretty atmospheric – and tense, because we are, after all, in the middle of the Trojan wars. A relentless drum tattoo and the whole cast on stage looking variously anxious, puzzled, fired up at the beginning is a good idea to convey that tension but arguably it was sustained for too long. After several minutes the audience was getting restive.

There are some fine performances in this show. Dan Ghigeanu stands out as Paris – direct, sure of himself and all over Helen (Matilda Scott – good) who has been famously whisked off to Troy, thereby causing a war. Chigeanu’s strong delivery works very well.

Lewis Dempsey – with expressive face and sensitive naturalistic delivery – gives an impressive account of Troilus and Darcy Priston is fun as the perceptive, fearless Thersites, one of Shakespeare’s most engaging fools. Roy Clarke is an excellent Achilles. He gets the fierce loyalty combined with not being over-bright perfectly.

There is a problem, however, with staging a youth company in the round. It takes a great deal of experience to engage an audience fully and audibly when you can face only a quarter of them at a time. Some lines in this show were lost because they simply couldn’t be heard from all sides of the auditorium – and this applied especially to the female voices because they’re higher pitched. And that, unfortunately, meant that the story telling wasn’t as strong as it might have been.

Director Paul Ainsworth and his team of keen young actors have clearly worked very hard on this interesting production and it does them all credit. Quite a journey with a play which is by no means an obvious or easy choice.

 First published by Sardines:
Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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