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Women of Owu

Collective Artistes, based on The Trojan Women by Euripides
Salisbury Playhouse and touring
(2004)

With modern warfare all around us, it seems unnecessary to remind ourselves that Euripides and his Trojan women have as much to say to this generation as to the masses at the Festival of Dionysus.

Jean-Paul Sartre adapted it to highlight the dangers of nuclear war in the 1960s and his own text was used to attack the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1983. Collective Artistes, a London-based international black ensemble, who visited Salisbury Playhouse from 10th - 14th February, have moved the women to Nigeria where in 1821 the city of Owu was sacked after a 7-year siege.

Personally, I would have liked adapter Femi Osofisan and the eleven players to have explored dramatically the tragedy of Women of Owu for itself. By inviting so specifically a comparison with Eurypides and Dionysius' theatre they seemed to promise a form and style of entertainment which was surely never intended.

For one thing, the sheer spectacle of a raped city was beyond Collective's resources. Even given the undoubted quality of some individual speaking, though it is by no means consistent, the women of Owu lacked the numbers to convey the real scale of outrage.Inevitably, then, the "god" figure of Tunde Euba's Anlugbua, is itself confined by the intimacy of so many of the scenes.

However, the essential pathos of the Owu story is by no means lost in director Chuck Mike's account, with sensitive performances by Tosan Edremoda Ugbeye (Erelu Afin) and Amie Buhari as the young woman.

Look out for Women of Owu at Edinburgh Traverse (17th February), Bolton Octagon (24th February), London Oval House (3rd March), Keswick (16th March), Chelmsford (19th March) and Plymouth Theatre Royal (23rd March).

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole