Theatre review: Andromache at the Pentameters

Andromache at the Pentameters

Andromache at the Pentameters - Credit: Archant

Fifties costumes out of time with revisted Greek tragedy

Jean Racine’s superb and realistic verse play about the human mind, its passion and its lust for vengeance was written when he was only 27 and performed by Les Grand Comediens in 1667. It has been lovingly translated and reconstructed by Samuel Solomon and given a new production by Michael Friend at the Pentameters.

The story begins at a point of time some ten years after the Trojan War and the slaughter of Hector, King of Troy, by Achilles, whose son Pyrrhus has captured Hector’s widow Andromache and carried her and her young son Astyanax off to his land of Epirus. She is still in love with her dead husband and constantly thinks of revenge on her captor but is afraid of putting her son in danger.

Orestes, son of Agamemnon, arrives at Epirus in order to try and take Astyanax and deliver him to the Grecians who are afraid he will seek revenge on them for the death of his father. He is also seeking Hermione, daughter of Helen and his ex lover who he still loves, but she is betrothed now to Pyrrhus.

It is an excellent translation and the story is made very clear by the actors who handle the verse with simplicity and complete naturalness.


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Orestes, played by Cameron Robertson, is every inch the romantic hero ready and willing to do anything for his beloved Hermione, and Tim Hilborne is a kingly Pyrrhus who is also ruled by his heart and, in order to win over Andromache, willing to adopt her son and make him King of Epirus .

The two dominating women - Andromache, played by Bethany Blake and Hermione by newcomer Francesca Bunce - are powerful and charismatic in spite of the unattractive and undignified fifties costumes they have been given to wear. They look like something out of ‘Dreamboats and Petticoats’ rather than Greek tragedy. They are so out of place against designer John Dalton’s wonderfully atmospheric setting.

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Apart from this, it is a satisfying production and definitely worth seeing once you’ve got all the complicated relationships sorted out.

***

Until December 1

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