The Globe Theatre is currently playing Simon Armitage’s very well written and easy to follow “The Last Days of Troy.” It is set in and around the Trojan War as noted in Homer’s Illiad; in which Paris of Troy has taken Helen from her husband, the king of Sparta, and war is waged to return her to her ‘rightful’ home. The Gods and Goddesses are also involved in the war, naturally, and we flit between their involvement in the war, and the bloody battlefields of the mortals.
The stage is set in a way that doesn’t add to the set so much as it take away from it. The (usually) ornate stage is draped with simple black fabrics. The costuming is minimal but not unusual for the time period – the goddess are draped in white and gold Grecian dresses, and the warriors all suit up in armor or leather vests. There is a good use of spears to communicate the war, as well as to create percussion noises—although in the performance we saw, one of the spears feel into the audience, and it was lucky no one was injured.
The best use of the set was the way the Trojan horse was presented. It required a bit of imagination, but it was a clever way to solve the ‘how do you get a giant wooden horse into the Globe’ scenario that came with the subject matter.
There is some good casting in this performance. Richard Bremmer is great as a grumpy and ever-pestered Zeus, and Colin Tierney is interesting to watch as Odysseus, particularly when he rages at David Birrell’s Agamemnon.
Of course, the star attraction of Troy for many will be to see model Lily Cole tackle a stage role—and to see whether or not she is suited for acting on stage, or merely strutting down one. When she makes her exit at the end and walks off of the stage and out the door we see the model, not the character, but overall, Cole is an interesting Helen- and you certainly can see how her face would launch 1000 ships.
She sings well, and although she is not the strongest actress on the stage, she is not the weakest either. I find myself unable to concoct a clear verdict on her performance, largely because the delivery of her lines lacked any conviction or depth. She comes across as almost void of any real emotion, and doesn’t even begin to convey what Helen feels and thinks – but then again, is that not in many ways an ideal portrayal of the rather cold Helen? She is at her best in scenes with former Downton Abbey actress Clare Calbraith, who plays both mortal Andromache and goddess Thetis.
I enjoyed Calbraith most in her role as Andromache – her relationship with her father-in-law is interesting and touching in this portrayal, and her unraveling in front of a well-meaning yet naïve Helen at the end is very well done.
Overall, the performance is very good, and has few faults. The story is easy to follow along with, and at times – very humourous. The twist of Zeus and Hera hawking souvenirs is clever (although overly drawn out towards the end.) The only drawback about the performance is that there’s no unique catch – there’s nothing that sets it apart from other strong Globe performances. The acting is largely good, but it lacks slightly in creativity to make it one of the Globe’s best.
Perhaps this is to do with staging; perhaps it’s the rather predictable and ‘safe’ costuming, but this show would be improved with a more unique angle to compliment and enhance the outstanding writing. That’s not to say there aren’t some elements that are very well done – the aforementioned horse and the acting are great— and it’s a play that really is worth seeing.
Don’t miss out on the Last Days of Troy – it’s on until Saturday 28th June, and tickets can be booked here.
PS: don’t book seat B66 in the lower gallery. It’s the most liberal use of ‘restricted view’ that I’ve seen since I went to Queen’s Park Rangers football ground. Trust me, that’s saying something.
PPS: The photo is from the Globe’s Facebook page and was taken by Jonathan Keenan. If anyone would like it taken down, give me a shout and I’ll happily oblige.