Troilus and Cressida
Performed at Upstage Centre Youth Theatre, 41 Monkgate, York
Tuesday 15th November to Saturday 19th November 2011 (6 performances)
The mighty Greek campaign against the Trojans has reached stalemate, with both sides quarrelling amongst themselves. Against this turbulent backdrop, Troilus and Cressida, pushed together by uncle Pandarus, must battle the power politics and the ruthless diplomacy which threaten to crush their newfound love.
Paul Toy’s production re-locates Shakespeare’s classic tale of love and war to the Siege of York, 1644. The English Civil War provides a dramatic fictitious setting for this dark tale, which explores the potent mix of politics, romance and war, all under the beady eye of the slave Thersites.
Combining period songs and music, with edge-of-your-seat combat, Troilus and Cressida promises a memorable evening’s entertainment.
It will be the third time Paul has directed for York Shakespeare Project, having previously taken the director’s chair for YSP’s second ever production, The Taming of the Shrew, and for Titus Andronicus. It will be the fourth time YSP have performed at Upstage Centre Youth Theatre, following The Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar and Richard II.
Photographs by Michael Oakes.
Priam: Harold Mozley
Hector: Andy Crisp
Paris: Richard Johnston
Troilus: Alan Flower
Aeneas: Tom Straszewski
Cassandra: Clancy McMullan
Andromache: Beth Fuller
Calchas: William Lee
Cressida: Virginia Hartmann
Pandarus: Ray Alexander
Alexandra: Katy Devine
Agamemnon: Ian Giles
Menelaus: Nick Jones
Nestor: Samuel Valentine
Ulysses: Maurice Crichton
Achilles: Daniel Wilmot
Ajax: Jon Adams
Diomedes: Matthew Wignall
Patroclus: James Osman
Thersites: James Rotchell
Helen: Anna Rogers
Prologue: Karen Millar
Sundry Trojans, Greeks, Servants, Soldiers, and Ladies of Easy Virtue: Bill Laverick, Sarah Redhead, Brenton Spyker and members of the company
Musicians: Nick Jones, Peter Marsh, Grace Redmore, Katie Seaborne.
Singers: Duncan Campbell, Alan Hardwick, Ian Packington, John Sharpe, Paul Tyack, Paul Toy.
Director: Paul Toy
Assistant Director: Rebecca Stafford
Stage Manager: Jess Warren
Asst Stage Manager: Jeremy Muldowney
Costumes: Zoe Groves
Musical Direction:: Paul Toy, Nick Jones
Lighting Design: Karen Millar
Sound: Paul Hepworth
Publicity: Rachel Alexander-Hill
Photography: Mike Oakes
Videography: Matt Pattison
Poster/Leaflet design: Andy Curry
Programme layout/design: Lada Hunt
In The York Press, Charles Hutchinson wrote: ‘For his third production for the York Shakespeare Project, director Paul Toy has shunted Troilus And Cressida forward from the ancient Greek-Trojan impasse to the Siege of York in the English Civil War.
‘That 1644 siege lasted ten days, and while it would be churlish to say the Toy show felt like that too, you are in for a long night. A very long night. The clock hand had ticked past 11 o’clock from a 7.30pm start by the time the sudden orgy of sword-fighting – a frenetic visual experience not dissimilar to a computer wargame – brought matters to their resolution.
‘In truth, the switch to 17th century besieged York is pretty much skin deep, although it reinforces the timeless nature of love and war. The names of the Greek and Trojan usual suspects remain the same, so too the references to Troy and Greece, but Zoe Groves’s Stuart-era costumes and bucket boots stand out wonderfully against the black-box backdrop with its flight of steps and awkward railings to negotiate.
‘The new setting is reinforced by the Early Music played by the woodwind, trumpet and quitar quartet of Nick Jones, Peter Marsh, Grace Redmore and Katie Seaborne and the harmony and solo singing of Duncan Campbell, Alan Hardwick, Ian Packington, John Sharpe and Paul Tyack. Their contribution is one of the best features of the production, especially the way they interact with assorted cast members’ exhortations to play or to stop playing. Playing a jarring bum note, when Maurice Crichton’s Scottish-toned Ulysses asks “What discord follows?”, is a typically light comic touch from the director.
‘As ever with Paul Toy’s Shakespearean work, intelligence and good judgement are at work, together with no little wit, and his choreography for the climactic fight scenes is excitingly full of flashing blades just out of contact with the audience.
‘You might wish he had inflicted more of those cuts on the text, as he has slashed only one seventh of the dialogue from Shakespeare’s third longest play, but what he gains in retaining so much of the verbal cut and thrust is a series of strong individual performances. Indeed, the parts are better than the sum of the parts.
‘Virginia Hartmann reaffirms she has one of the most delectable voices on the York stage in the role of Cressida; Alan Flower’s musketeer look and natural stage presence serve Troilus well, and it is pleasing to see Ray Alexander return to prominence as the match-making/interfering Pandarus, resplendent in powdered wig and cane. He has his comic moments, as does James Rotchell’s fool, Thersites, especially when he turns his woollen bobble hat into a puppet.
‘Jon Adams scares the audience with an Ajax who is not so much scenery chewing as scenery endangering, bashing the seating rails in his fury. Matthew Wignall’s underhand seducer Diomedes comes to the fore post-interval, while Daniel Wilmot’s under-dressed Achilles has camp camaraderie with teenage new discovery James Osman’s Patroclus (whose hint of Little Richard is an added pleasure).
‘The really serious, thankless business rests with Ian Giles’s Agamemnon and Andy Crisp’s Hector, whereas Clancy McMullan has scene-stealer written all over her cameos as ever-gloomy prophetess Cassandra.
‘Troilus & Cressida remains a Shakespeare B-side, as one audience member observed, but York Shakespeare have made a decent fist of giving it one of its rare days on the A-side of life.’