Fringe review: Trojan Women, Eyewitness Theatre Company, Manchester, England.
Not everybody thinks the Fringe means time for frivolity. Peter McGarry’s Eyewitness Theatre has brought the Fringe plenty of meaty theater in years past (Lysistrata, Medea), and some of those and more modern offerings (Home to Roost, Time to Go Walking, Our Daily Bread) have made the case to laugh-happy Fringe audiences that drama and comedy can mix.
But Eyewitness seems to have been off its game with the opening-night performance of Trojan Women, McGarry’s adaptation of the Euripides classic, which all too rarely wrenches the gut the way it should.
This is a stripped-down telling: The sole characters are Cassandra, the ill-fated seer who is fated to become the mistress of the old, repulsive Agamemnon; Andromache, the unforgiving widow of Cassandra’s brother Hector; and Helen, the mesmerizing native of Sparta whose affair with the Trojan Paris brought about the Trojan War. Andromache despises Helen; the virginal, half-mad Cassandra frets about her future; and Helen stands stoic in the face of doom.
McGarry has combined modern and old-fashioned language to create a hybrid that’s easy to understand. But his version leaves out a lot of the old story’s horror, and the focus on Cassandra’s sexual future somehow makes light of it. The large, bare Margeson Theater stage does the production no favors. And the cast doesn’t seem consistently comfortable: Carly Tarett makes a regal, self-aware Helen, but Suzanne Roche is not much more than disapproving as Andromache and Gemma Flannery all too frenetic as Cassandra. There’s beautiful writing here, but it strikes only the mind, not the heart.
Remaining shows: 10:20 p.m. Saturday 5/22, 12:55 p.m. Sunday 5/23, 11 p.m. Monday 5/24, 6 p.m. Wednesday 5/26, 1:40 p.m. Saturday 5/29, 1:40 p.m. Sunday 5/30. Orange venue.