Director Sean O’Riordan wasn’t wrong to describe Troilus and Cressida as a 'problem play'.
Photo of Charles Upton via The Depot Theatre.
Shakespeare’s tragedy, action, comedy, drama and passenger-side view of the siege of Troy is not one of the Bard’s most prolific plays nor a straightforward template for any adaptation. Staged by Secret House at Marrickville’s Depot Theatre, an ample and able cast brings vivid life to this seldom-performed curiosity.
Fusing ancient swords and sandals with modern exemplars and a range of contemporary tunes littered throughout proceedings (bar a rendition of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’) manages to hit the mark.
Crowded by virtue of it’s source material the long list of players nonetheless create an impulsively frenetic atmosphere, imparting the goings-on with an urgency lesser seen in more traditional stagings.
With well-choreographed fight scenes and two clashes of steel serving as highlights of this very physical production, the stage is fittingly adorned with sand, of which patron’s themselves can’t help but encounter. The design lends itself well to the classical atmospherics made better by a timely, restrained deployment of haze effects.
The set, surrounded by layered cloth which invokes an ancient air, is used exceptionally well for one confrontational sequence as several figures at once emerge from different junctures. In spite of this sizeable impact and the placement being evident throughout, this technique’s potential is otherwise never fully realised.
Margarita Gershkovich and Grace Naoum reverberate strongly as Achilles and Ajax respectively, as does Alec Ebert as Hector. The conspicuous decision to upend the familiar gender roles in this production is one of its more intriguing and memorable aspects. One particular declamation from the tale’s most recognisable figure takes on a new and particularly emphatic resonance that would not have been possible but for this creative casting. Matthew Bartlett is also commendable as Troilus, among others managing to alleviate the play’s decidedly morbid aspects with an endearing light-heartedness that, for the purposes of the play’s more dramatic ends, is thankfully never overstated.
An uncommon choice from Shakespeare’s many classics to be sure, Secret House’s practised ensemble does more than justice to their material.
Secret House Presents
Troilus and Cressida
9-19 May The Depot Theatre
Producers: Jane Angharad and James Smithers
Director: Sean O'Riordan
Set and Costume Design: Maya Keys
Lighting Design: Mehran Mortezaei
Fight Choreography: Scott Witts
Stage Managers: Liz Jameson and Milly Grindrod
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What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level