Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Trojan Women

So much to write about, so little time. Here's my impressions about the Stratford play Trojan Women.

I didn't plan on seeing this play. My husband and I had an early dinner and were walking along the river admiring the swans and laughing at the antics of the ducks. We wandered into the Festival Theatre to see what was playing that evening. I think it was Romeo and Juliet. We saw this play before at Stratford and although each staging is different, we really weren't interested in seeing it again. The ticket seller suggested that we walk down to the Tom Patterson Theatre and check out The Trojan Women. She said that it was a short play and that we could get rush seat prices for it. So that's what we did. We'd never been to the Tom Patterson before. It is a small theatre with seating on 3 sides of the stage so the audience is quite close to the action.

The Trojan Women

This play, written by Euipedes, takes place right after the defeat of Troy by the Greeks. Here's the story (taken from the program):

After 10 years of siege, Troy has fallen to the Greeks. Outraged by the desecration of her temples, the goddess Athena persuades the god Poseidon to help her harass the conquerors on their journey home. Meanwhile Hecuba, Andromache and the other women of Troy grieve for their husbands, their children and their home. Now the property of their captors, they are destined to become either slaves or concubines, and Hecuba is desperate to learn the fate of her two daughters, Polyxena and Cassandra. As the day wears on, Cassandra arrives in a state of frenzy, uttering dark prophecies of the misfortunes awaiting the Greeks on their return home. the Greek herald, Talthybius, bring terrible news for Amdromache, and King Menelaus reclaims his wife, Helen, whose actions provoked the war. The women's anguish reaches fever pitch as they prepare to be taken away to endure their new lives in Greece.

Women are so often absent from history - most history is the history of men. This play takes us beyond the history of the Trojan war itself and into the aftermath when all the men are dead and the women are left to pick up the pieces and deal with the consequences. Euripides wrote this play thousands of years ago, yet here we are in the 21st century and women are still picking up the pieces and dealing with the consequences of war. We don't often think beyond what is displayed in our media about war - war is still mainly a male event characterized by soldier deaths and collateral damage (such a sterile term for death of civilians). We have brief glimpses into what happens to some women but usually it is just a line or 2 in a history book or a 30 second sound bite. So when I think about this play, my main reaction is that is refreshing to see history from a female perspective. Apparently, Euripedes was know for his strong women characters and this play was full of strong women whose perspective in this play was not a positive one.

I was surprised at the way Helen was portrayed - as a manipulative, selfish creature who was despised by the Trojan women. In many versions of this story that I have read, I have not seen her portrayed in this manner - usually it was Paris who was shown as weak, selfish and unconcerned by others' needs except his own.

This was the first Greek play that I've attended. I don't remember reading one or studying one in school. One of the drama teachers at my former school did some work with her students on Greek plays and I remember that one of the things that her students had the find out about was the purpose of the chorus in Greek plays. Now I understand what this is. In this play, some lines are spoken 'in chorus' by the actors on the stage.

I'm glad that we decided to see it. I'm not sure that I would go to Stratford just to see this play but it was certainly more entertaining than going to a bar/cafe or back to the hotel room to watch TV.


1 comment:

pc said...

'Nietzsche suggests that it was the rhythmic dance and chants of the chorus, positioned always to mediate the physical space separating audience and actor, that evoked the visionary experience that was the very essence of tragedy.'

One site suggests the above about the Greek chorus. I enjoy the 'readers' theatre' potential of using segments of Greek plays in class.

Interesting post.