Hecuba

Previewed 1 April 2005, Opened 7 April 2005, Closed 7 May 2005 at the Noel Coward Theatre in London

The Royal Shakespeare Company present new production of Euripides' Hecuba in London written by Tony Harrison and directed by Laurence Boswell.

What happens to human beings when they lose all hope? The first great war between the east and the west is over. Troy has fallen and the victorious Greek coalition forces are on their way home. Hecuba, once queen of Troy, now a prisoner of war, is being transported back to Athens with other war booty, the women of Troy. Having lost her home, her husband and most of her children, what does this proud and brave woman do when she is asked by her captors to give up her daughter's life having discovered on the same day that her only surviving son has been murdered?

One of the most powerful and intense dramas ever written, a play which celebrates the courage and bravery of Hecuba and the women of Troy as they struggle to survive, a play which asks important questions about how the victors of war deal with the vanquished, a play about what happens to human beings when they lose all hope?

The cast for Hecuba in London features Vanessa Redgrave in the title role with Darrell D'Silva as 'Odysseus', Alan Dobie as 'Talthybius' and Matthew Douglas as 'Polydorus' along with Charlotte Allam, Jane Arden, Rosalie Craig, Maisie Dimbleby, Barbara Gellhorn, Aileen Gonsalves, Harry Jackson, Lydia Leonard, Farah Mohamed, Michele Moran, Katherine O'Shea, Sasha Oakley, Judith Paris, Sarah Quist, Darcy Solomon, Andre Symeou, Christopher Terry, Malcolm Tierney and Natalie Turner-Jones. Written by Euripides and translated by Tony Harrison. Directed by Laurence Boswell with designs by Es Devlin, choreography by Heather Habens, lighting by Adam Silverman, music by Mick Sands, sound by Fergus O'Hare. Laurence Boswell's West End credits include David Williamson's Up For Grabs (Wyndham's Theatre 2002).

"This production marks the return to the RSC of Vanessa Redgrave after more than 40 years away. She seems to grow with age so that her craggy, crusading, rampaging retribution for the death of her son is here truly awesome to behold. Hecuba does not require vast classical knowledge. It deals with the aftermath of war and the ethics of victory. The problem is that Euripides tells his tale as a series of often-statuesque duologues interrupted by frequent bursts of chanting from an on-stage chorus. Only Redgrave's mesmeric stage presence regularly kicks the show over the borderline from recital to drama." The Daily Express

"Despite its considerable heft, Laurence Boswell's production of Hecuba is oddly insubstantial, replacing a tale that should be acid-etched into the memory with an experience that is forgotten even before you pass the Exit sign... [Vanessa Redgrave] plays the widowed Trojan queen, captured by the Greeks and brought low as a prisoner of war... It is a role defined by its inconsistency, forcing Redgrave to switch from broken woman to anguished mother to vengeful fury. Yet while Redgrave's voice commands attention, it never rallies emotions. Not only is her performance flatly understated, it feels on the brink of collapse, as if her mental autocue keeps jamming... Harrison's translation is, of course, partly to blame. It's as hollow as a Grecian urn, substituting brutal alliteration and a fondness for the word "hacking" for genuinely ear-catching poetry." The Sunday Times

"Laurence Boswell's production of Euripides's tragedy, splendidly and newly translated by Tony Harrison, is exemplary in many ways, not least for its many fine performances - but where was Hecuba?... As Hecuba Vanessa Redgrave appeared appropriately hollowed out and gaunt, and, though it was a relief not to have histrionics from a character well beyond any of that, Redgrave - her famous voice so measured as to be a monotone - was understated to a fault. She was, in fact, underwhelming... If Redgrave is shadowy, she isn't helped by a chorus that is exaggerated and coarsened to absurdity... And though Es Devlin's bare, amphitheatre set is just about fine, the dignity of the women is not helped by their droopy, hippyish costumes. It is a shame that what is nearly such an intelligent production - a bold adaptation and such a stalwart cast, is so effectively undermined." The Sunday Telegraph

"[Vanessa Redgrave] is sometimes far less good than Clare Higgins (who gave a searing account of the role last autumn at the Donmar Warehouse), and yet she is more original, more surprising, and eventually she travels a larger emotional arc. She, whose youthful radiance more than 40 years ago is now legendary, now uses her age to bleak effect... It works not by intensity, as at the Donmar, but by letting Euripides's architecture register with a large formal power. Within this tragic structure, La Redgrave's performance changes and grows: she becomes the production's raison d'etre." The Financial Times

RSC's Hecuba in London at the Noel Coward Theatre previewed from 1 April 2005, opened on 7 April 2005 and closed 7 May 2005.