The Woman - Review

The play's theme is war and questions if any war can be justified. Although set in the Trojan War Bond's arguments are valid today, remembering recent atrocities. We are confronted with not only the horrors of the war but with the continuing brutality of the victors in "peacetime". The cast of this play and its director, Martin Nichols, are to be congratulated for undertaking not only a bold choice of play but also for one that is challenging to stage.

The first act deals with the siege of Troy and the intervention of two women, Ismene, wife of the Greek commander, and Hecuba, the Queen of Troy, to bring about a break in the stalemate. The act ends with a tremendous climax with the Greek victors sacking Troy and the two women pleading for the end of the killing. Hecuba cannot bear the sight of what is happening and blinds herself. In the second act we met the two women on an island where they have spent 12 years following a shipwreck. Ismene, due to the horrors that she witnessed in Troy, has lost her mind and acts as guide to Hecuba. Their peaceful life is interrupted by the arrival of the Greeks. Although no longer at war the Greeks bring with them the same threats and brutality.

As Hecuba, Sandra Ventris, built up a powerful performance in the first act that was then contrasted in the second by some skilful underplaying. Likewise Lyn Furnee, as Ismene, gave contrasting performances. The transition from the passionate anti-war stance to the childlike state following her mental breakdown was well achieved. However the actress needs to control her facial expressions. On occasions in the first half they came close to "mugging". Tim Blisset, gave a solid performance as Heros, the Greek commander. At times this actor tended to speak in a conversational style whereby his voice dropped and he became inaudible. In part I felt that this was due to the author and to the colloquial style of writing. The elder statesman, Nestor, was very well played by Jerry Lyne although he was not well served by an irritatingly obvious false beard. I was particularly impressed with the performance of Frank McCabe, as the Dark Man. He gave a convincing portrayal of a character with a crippled body and a cunning mind. With such a large cast it is only possible to comment on the performances of the main characters. For the rest I can only congratulate them en masse for some fine ensemble playing.

The direction, in the main, was firmly handled with the large crowd scenes being well staged. There were a couple of occasions, however, when a leading player was placed with their back to the audience and having to speak upstage. I felt that stronger direction was needed with the actor playing Hecuba's son. The anger and ranting needed to be shaded. I liked the way the numerous scene changes were handled - often being achieved with the action being continuous.

Barrie Jerram