The Trojan Women

Euripides, translated by David Stuttards
Open University
(2002)

David Stuttards' new translation of Euripides' Trojan Women shows many inventive touches. He tries to give the classical play a very contemporary feel. He does this by using modern language in a very free translation and by creating many contemporary images in a minimalist post-Holocaust-style set.

In some cases, he is a little too clever for his own good. He uses the metaphor of the fall of Troy to represent the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, last September. The play starts with constant references to rubble and dust and subsequently we hear of a Trojan horse coming from the sky like a plane and of the collapse of some not very Trojan "Twin Towers". Later, there is a sudden series of references to wars in the Balkans over the last few years.

This begins to create a slight metaphorical confusion, as it is hard to see real parallels between the Greeks with their empire and a group of Al-Qaida terrorists. This has the consequence of detracting slightly from Euripides' original theme.

The language is often very poetic and Stuttards is clearly a great lover of alliteration. His use of it is constant and often very effective, although it must make life hard for his actors! He also puts considerable pressure on his grey-clad cast of five by accepting that with such a small number it is not possible to have a chorus. They therefore have to share narration and there is a tendency for the play to become somewhat episodic and lose flow despite the efforts of his drawling Everyman, David Corden.

One advantage with this structural approach is to showcase the individual talents of each actor in turn. The highlights are led by Sarah Stanley's Cassandra who is truly fearful of the prophecies that she makes. It is, however less than clear that these are not believed by the other characters. Her performanc, though, is heart rending.

Similarly, Naomi Wattis as Andromache is deeply touched when she is forced to give up her son, a royal prince whose life ebbs away symbolically as sand.

Holding things together is Bonny Ambrose as Hekabe who sees the Kingdom of Troy falling apart and its remaining Women prostituted by the Greek invaders. Her vehement hatred of the sultry, seductive Helen (Rachel Donovan), launcher of a 1,000 ships, is cruel but justified. Ultimately, Hekabe is there to see things through to the end and produce a final ray of hope even as Troy burns - most effectively thanks to Al Orange's lighting and Hannah Quinn's music.

This modern rendition of a timeless tale largely succeeds in its attempts to relate Euripides to the 21st century. This is largely due to David Stuttards' imagination and his use of language together with his odd flashes of humour to leaven the terror.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher