Marina Carr’s new version of Hecuba, the Homeric tale first dramatised by Euripides, is playing at Stratford’s Swan Theatre, a powerful, stripped-back production of the story set after the bloody end of the Trojan wars. Derbhle Crotty stars as the title character, a strong and dignified woman shaped by suffering but refusing to succumb to it. She is superb in the role, entirely compelling, and Ray Fearon matches her as Agamemnon, the king responsible for her downfall. The two have a definite chemistry, and the play shines most notably when the pair are on stage together.
Amy McAllister is very good as Hecuba’s daughter Polyxena, but for me the most fascinating character is Nadia Albina’s Cassandra. Her capacity for prophecy has turned her into an almost sociopathic figure, shrugging her shoulders at suffering and displaying a grim satisfaction when one of her disturbing prophecies comes true.
Erica Whyman’s direction and Soutra Gilmour’s set place the storytelling at the front of the story, allowing Carr’s language to speak for itself. The text is certainly rich and beautiful, but I did become rather irritated by the increasing repetition of “he said”, “she said”: having characters speak others’ lines as if retelling the story is novel at first, but quickly becomes annoying. Atrocities are described, not seen: no fake blood in this production, but it is chilling for all that.
I am not familiar with Euripides’ original play, so I can’t compare the two versions. Nevertheless, I did enjoy this eloquent, thoughtful production.