Review – Hecuba by the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford

Stratford at this time of year is beautiful. October mists, the pavement littered with the glowing reds and oranges of fallen leaves and the air tinged with the suspense of winter yet to come. Deputy Royal Shakespeare Company  Artistic Director Erica Whyman’s stunning new production of Hecuba shines a light on a world of horror, suspended for few moments, before the violence of war ensues.

HEC-RST-0077Ray Fearon as Agamemnon: Photographer: Topher McGrillis

Set sparingly against Soutra Gilmour’s set of burnished mirrors, Hecuba, Queen of Troy, now fallen, is alone, imprisoned with her two daughters for company.  Hecuba (Derbhle Crotty) sits on her dead husband’s throne, gathering what shards of dignity are left to her, having witnessed the slaughtering of her children, her citizens, and the fall of a civilization. She is mesmerising to watch, commanding the stage with innate majesty alongside Ray Fearon’s persuasive physicality as her powerful victor, Agamemnon.

HEC-RST-0126Nadia Albina (Cassandra) in the background, Derbhle Crotty (Hecuba) in foreground.
Photographer: Topher McGrillis

Marina Carr’s new adaptation throws dialogue around like weapons of war, the protagonists multiple narrations blurring the victorious with the victims. Verbal echoes resonate, as stories of grief, woe and loss are played out again and again. We are left in no doubt of the direct line between the atrocities of ancient myth and the bloodshed of real and present day conflict.

Moving, lyrical and urgent – the force of this production is too good to miss. Like a falling leaf, catch it while you can.

by Gabriella Crewe-Read

RSC Swan Theatre Stratford-Upon-Avon until October 17, 2015
Tickets 0844 800 111