The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0355 Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Date: Monday, August 27, 2012, at 10:10 PM
Subject: World Shakespeare Festival 2012: Troilus and Cressida
Thank you for that fascinating description of the Wooster Group/RSC Troilus and Cressida. I became familiar with the Wooster Group’s work when I was rather randomly assigned a class on Avant-Garde theatre to teach. Could you possibly tell us something about what was done with the role of Cressida in this production? I am particularly curious about her entrance to the Greek camp, and her final scene with Diomedes, being watched by Troilus, Ulysses and Thersites, as these scenes must have been tackled only after the two halves of the company began to be integrated. The Wooster Group usually employs a lot of props and costume elements that a fairly obvious signifiers of one thing or another, to the modern, pop-culture trained eye; were any of these brought to bear on the person of Cressida?
Hardy’s Response (in hopes others will expand upon remarks)
What a wonderful question.
My experience with theatre after feminism has convinced me of the importance of how the treatment of Cressida in contemporary productions is an expression of her commodification by the men around her. From my perspective, the most interesting and successful productions are those that explore this issue.
Having said this, and I appeal other others who were present to expand and correct me, because so much was going on, I did not feel that this production particularly emphasized the “trading,” as it were, of Cressida.
As I previously reported and I have since received further information from Tom Cartelli about the documentaries and their relations to what was happening on the stage, the Wooster Group delivered their lines in a drone mimicking that of Pacific Northwest Native Americans. The drone, at first, was disorientating, as was the drumming and musical accompaniment and effects, so some details are not as clear for me as they might but that was the point I believe.
As I recall, Diomedes appears in Troy to fetch Cressida as a blustering military type. To signify her being “traded” from the Trojans to the Greeks, Cressida strips from her Native American garb and, as I recall, puts on a rather plain frock. I do not remember that Cressida was particularly “MANhandled” at her arrival in the Grecian camp, at least not as much as I have seen in other productions nor was she overly demonized as a “daughter of the game." The pace was rapid, and so much was going on that I might have missed significant details.
I believe Calchas was not present when Diomedes fetched Cressida for the scene in which Troilus’s sleeve was exchanged or taken. The Swan stage is relatively small, and the overhearing scene was staged completely non-representationally. Thersites was behind Troilus and Ulysses while Diomedes and Cressida were further downstage. Again, because the production was striving not to be representational, it is difficult to attribute emotions to the characters from their actions in this or any other scene. At Troy, when Troilus and Cressida touched their fingers to each other, lights flashed and noises sounded giving the impression of an intense electrical shock passing between them. During the betrayal scene there may have been loud noises but they did not particularly register with me. Thersites was his usual mastic self, as sleazy was he could be, and his portrayal perhaps signified more realistic, identifiable emotions than the Trojans did.
I am sorry that I cannot be more comprehensive and I do hope others might continue this conversation.