Review – The Trojans

Sep 27 2012 | By More

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 Chiara Margiotta as Laocoon in George Watson's production of The Trojans

Chiara Margiotta as Laocoon in George Watson’s production of The Trojans

George Watson’s College
Review by Thom Dibdin

The harder they come, the harder they fall. And they came on pretty hard in the ancient city of Troy during the ten year siege recalled in the classic Greek myths.

Picking up the tale, complete with all the recognisable elements of Paris and his “theft” of Helen, the ensuing siege and the Trojan Horse which ended it, The Trojans updates the action to modern times. After all, if the world has changed, man hasn’t.

And what it finds in Simon Adorian’s clever text for a large cast – there are 25 named speaking roles and a chorus of 16 – is a play which does not so much echo or reflect the political machinations of modern conflict, but depicts them in their vile brutality.

This much is portrayed with some considerable understanding in this engaging production by the S6 Drama unit at George Watson’s College.

At its heart lies a degenerate royal dynasty, headed by King Priam (Rowan Salisbury) and his wife Hecuba (Polly Bartlett). Their sons, lead by Andrew Connal’s smoothly arrogant Paris, run the army – or as much of it as Andrew Dalley’s quick-to-temper Antimachus, head of the elite palace guard, will let them.

Around Troy’s walls, the disaffected youth – liberated from learning by the closing of the schools to pay for the war effort – keep watch on the surrounding Achaean armies. A feral chorus of malcontents, they see themselves as the city’s eyes and ears. They are the loyal.

Caught between them, the powerless city’s populace shrug their shoulders and let their leaders play war. But Princess Cassandra, given a bright spark of energy by Hannah Collins, has rejected her royal birthright, goes by the name of Cas and is campaigning for peace.

A thoroughly modern streak of cynicism

This has a thoroughly modern streak of cynicism running right through it. Adam Hussain as the Palace Spokesman pours out the official version of the truth, portrayed in video news programmes in a way that is both familiar and obviously propaganda. Chiara Margiotta’s articulate Laocoon,  an independent journalist who is unloved by all sides, tries to get to the truth of what is going on, but her greatest hurdle is to make her fellow citizens listen.

Chris Kelly as Sinon charms the Chorus in George Watson’s production of The Trojans

Chris Kelly as Sinon charms the Chorus in George Watson’s production of The Trojans

It is told with a strong flow and easy narrative drive. Some scene changes are not as swift as they might be, but director Alfonso Iannone ensures there are enough audio and visual distractions for it to appear to be running smoothly on.

The performances are generally strong, too. The Greek chorus – as it were – of Trojan youths are a well-drilled framing device as well as driving the narrative on and providing a commentary on it. They move easily from naturalistic to stylised scenes.

Of the main cast, Collins’s Cas is nicely naturalistic in the futility of her attempt to force her family to talk to the enemy. Gabby Morris has a serene sense of detachment as Princess Helena – you believe that for all her outward calm she is masking an unannounced guile.

There are nicely put performances all the way down the order, too. Eilidh Wilson puts the case clearly for understanding and negotiation as the diplomat Antenor. And when Antimachus and Paris set up a council to rubber stamp their plans for one last push for victory, Claire Armstrong, Catriona Melville, Ruth Hayhow and Stephanie Urquhart are well balanced as the council’s citizen members.

If the whole is painted with too broad a brush for any real characterisation, the two most dynamic roles are given plenty to play with. Margiotta consistently pushes the Gadfly role as Laocoon, while Chris Kelly brings a truly authoritative streak to the second act, as Sinon, an escaped Achaean slave found in a ditch during the surprisingly easy and successful attack which pushes the Achaean armies out to sea.

The whole is excellently staged. If the over thirty strong backstage crew have obviously had fun with effects such as the strobe and the bangs of gunfire and explosion, the level of their results is quite in keeping with the matter in hand.

This is, after all, a forceful and well argued pitch against warmongers who use the sordid excuse of honour to destroy the cultures and subjugate the peoples which they are supposed to be protecting. A call to stand up and be counted.

Run ended.

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