Pros: Brilliantly inventive staging and concepts that fully support the story. Great script editing and a tight ensemble make it easy to understand.
Cons: Very few. Some of the characters were indistinct due to the script cuts and the constant ensemble presence.
A single, long table spans the width of the stage, brightly decorated for a party. As the sixteen strong cast conga in and fill the stage, there is clearly something to celebrate. The Trojans are winning the war and Troy is having a party. The party decorations enforce the celebrations at the beginning of the play. As the action develops and their fortunes collapse, the décor darkly juxtaposes the story.
As Troilus and Pandarus discuss Troilus’ love for Cressida, the rest of the cast gently toss balloons around them. The effect is mesmerizing and enhances the innocence of the young man’s love. Pandarus is Cressida’s camp, matchmaking uncle, well played by Matt Butcher. His performance is the best of the production. Troilus (Nicholas Farr) and Cressida (Colette O’Rourke) follow, with a genuine portrayal of young love and devotion. Their devastation as Cressida is traded to the Greeks for the release of a prisoner is genuine and heartbreaking.
The entire cast is onstage for the whole performance, making transitions instant and effectively enhancing the setting. Everyone wears party hats and contemporary civilian dress rather than military gear, reminding us that soldiers are normal people in extraordinary circumstances rather than coldhearted killing machines. Due to the extensive cuts, fast pace and the constant presence of the ensemble, the smaller roles are rather indistinct. That being said, the soldiers manage to show clear physical contrast to each other as Pandarus presents them to Cressida.
Other standout performances come from Charlotte Mafham as Cassandra and CJ de Mooi as Thersites. Both have captivating stage presence and strong characterisation, but when part of the ensemble they move easily in to supporting roles. Despite their brief solo stage time, they are worth waiting for. The rest of the cast deliver the language fluidly and skillfully. Director Ricky Dukes certainly knows how to choose performers with an innate sense for Shakespeare’s linguistic nuances.
Lighting designer Stuart Glover uses bright colours to back up the set design and enhance the particularly stark ending. Parts of the stage are quite dark, leaving some of the ensemble in semi-darkness for much of the time, although this is probably due more to the restrictions of the small (but otherwise lovely) space.
Dukes is an accomplished director, having been running Lazarus Theatre Company for several years. He is committed to approaching and reinventing Shakespeare for modern audiences. His work is at the forefront of London fringe Shakespeare and his concepts are always unique but suitable to the play. My first review for Everything Theatre was Lazarus’ production of The Spanish Tragedy and I thought the same then. This shows Dukes’ work is consistent and his creativity is boundless. If you want to see high-quality, cutting edge fringe Shakespeare, see one of his productions. Even if you’re not a Shakespeare fan, the plays are edited so they are easy to follow. The performances are clear, making the main characters completely understandable. Troilus and Cressida is certainly a top offering at The Camden Fringe this year. Don’t miss it.
Author: William Shakespeare
Director: Ricky Dukes
Producer: Lazarus Theatre Company
Booking Until: 6 September 2014
Box Office: 020 7240 6283
Booking Link: http://tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/whats-on/troilus-cressida–our-world-at-war