02 May 2009

Andromaque - par Jean Racine

Camille Cayol - Andromaque
Christophe Grégoire - Pyrrhus
Camille Japy - Hermione
Xavier Boiffier - Oreste
Romain Cottard - Pylade
Bênêdicte Wenders - Céphise
Cécile Leterme - Cléone
Vincent de Bouard - Phoenix
Mathieu Spinosi - Astyanax

Director Declan Donnellan
Designer Nick Ormerod
Lighting Designer Judith Greenwood
Movement Director Jane Gibson
Produced by C.I.C.T/ Théàtre des Bouffes du Nord
In a co-production with Théàtre du Nord, Lille and Cheek by Jowl & part of Paris Calling, a Franco-British season of performing arts that I have been doing my best to support.

Seen in the Silk Street Theatre at the Barbican. I don't know why I thought I'd be able to avoid this. I had the chance of a seat for the first night but held strong and then one came up in what I thought would be the perfect place on the last night so I had to take it.E 17. I thought I saw Claire Bloom in the audience but I could be wrong.

The Trojan War ended in a blaze of shame, a massacre of horrific proportions. Now the children of Troy’s Greek conquerors face the impossible task of living up to their immortalised parents. Hector’s widow, Andromaque, lives only to save her son. When the Greeks demand his surrender, she faces an appalling dilemma.

In a radical new production by Cheek by Jowl, Racine’s French classic exposes our capacity for self deception with lacerating clarity.
In French with English surtitles

The sense of excitement in the foyer was palpable and I really hoped that all the people in the returns line would be as lucky as I was. I think they were as there were five or six empty seats by the time it all started. I'm afraid my seat wasn't so great as it turned out. A gentleman sat next to me and he smelt of STP & really we should have had three seats between us. I think he was feeling a little off-colour and he kept flinging his arms and a cloth around and also scratching noisily. The only thing I could do to block him out the performance was to lean right forward but then I was worried about breathing on the head of the woman in front of me. The other reason the seat was not so good for me was because I had to move my head up and down for the surtitles. At the interval the stunningly helpful front-of-house staff gave me a seat a couple of rows back and it was amazing. The surtitles were in my eyeline and I was among healthy, attentive people with loads of room & I saw the full effect of the magic.

Cheek by Jowl are kind enough to provide a very helpful the family tree but I have seen a couple of variations on this tale quite recently so I didn't really need it. Even wth my limited schoolgirl of French, I am pretty certain that the surtitles were not terribly faithful to Racine's passionate text. It seemed to me that great chunks were missed but they were almost not needed. The performances were staggering and I was reduced to tears when the wedding petals turned to red petals of blood. Have a look around the CbJ link for some reviews but here is the Sunday Times as a starter. You can catch the last few performances in Warwick if you hurry next week. Glorious evening.