Monday, 20 July 2015
Hecuba @ White Bear Theatre
With writer Chris Vlachopoulos originating from Corfu and director Justin Murray having a degree in Classics, it stands to reason that the pair would have a great understanding of the ancient Greek tragedy from Euripides.
It's also understandable that they would use the play as a political statement for a modern world. Where the original play sees the Trojan Queen mourning the loss of her two children, this adaptation draws a parallel with fictional characters in current day. Willow (Lucinda Lloyd) is a single mother whose daughter Pol (Roisin Keogh) is suffering from a life threatening illness, yet due to cuts in government funding she is unable to afford the necessary medication. Her son Ollie (Ben Scheck), meanwhile, is killed in a police attack. When Willow befriends the cop who murdered her son, she enacts her bloody revenge.
The two stories are intertwined as if the modern characters are possessed by the past. It's a clever concept, even if it's perhaps worrying how easy modern examples fit into the narrative. Yet although Hecuba is an interesting and informative reimagining of the original, it does feel like more of an A-level drama piece serving some educational brief rather than an enjoyable play in its own right. The modern day parallel only works in tandem with the Euripides story, rather than as an autonomous piece.
This idea bleeds into the set design. Constructed solely from piles of newspapers and paper boats, it imaginatively conveys both a Mediterranean seascape and a messy London flat, as well as representing an ever present modern media. It's conceptual over functional.
Thankfully there are some enjoyable performances. The cast bring a surprising amount of comedy to multiple roles, but they're led by a hugely capable performance from Lucinda Lloyd. Her Willow/Hecuba is a desperate woman drawn to desperate measures - even her murderous revenge is easy to sympathise with. This Hecuba may not stand alone, but it's an intelligently produced piece with excellent acting.
Watch: Hecuba runs at the White Bear Theatre until 18th July.