The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0385 Monday, 12 November 2018
Date: November 10, 2018 at 1:54:04 PM EST
Subject: From TLS - 'Notorious identities'
From TLS 'Notorious identities'
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA
Royal Shakespeare Theatre
MEASURE FOR MEASURE
Shakespeare for a disenchanted age
“What’s past and what’s to come is strewed with husks”, Agamemnon tells the heroic Hector on the eve of his death, situating his welcome to the Greek camp “in this extant moment”. Gregory Doran’s desert punk Troilus and Cressida casts Suzanne Bertish as the weary-wise commander with a shock of long grey hair, in a production that is particularly attentive to time and to age. Royal Shakespeare Company publicity claims the Australian dystopia of Mad Max as inspiration, and the homage is clear in the scrap metal, loud music and biker gang aesthetic. Perhaps a closer cinematic parallel, though, would be The Last Jedi: as in that Star Wars movie, here melancholic older women leaders watch as impulsive youth, driven by ambition, pride, myth and desire, repeat age-old mistakes.
Having a female Agamemnon, Ulysses, Calchas, Prologue and Thersites is not simply “gender-blind” casting: it radically redirects the play’s own problematic misogyny to focus instead on inter-generational relationships in both the Greek and Trojan camps. The aspersive Ulysses (Adjoa Andoh) vibrates with sardonic, muscular energy; the jaded Thersites, played by Sheila Reid gleefully channelling Mother Courage via wee Jimmy Krankie, calls out the folly of youth, ducking between Ajax’s buskined legs and sitting cross-legged atop a rusty shipping container to watch Troilus (Gavin Fowler) watch Diomed’s (Daniel Burke’s) rough wooing of Cressida (Amber James). The men are correspondingly jejune: blockish Ajax (Theo Ogundipe), the sarcastic broker Aeneas (Amanda Harris) operating between the camps as the military equivalent of Pandarus, vain pin-up Achilles doing bicep curls outside his tent (Andy Apollo), and the earnest and inexperienced Troilus, Ross from Friends trying to play superhero. Among the young, only the wryly modern, pragmatic Cressida has the self-knowledge to understand her situation as she returns to the Greeks, a proxy for her cousin Helen, in a prisoner exchange.