Review: Women of Troy by the Heath Players

Entertainment / Sun 6th Nov 2022 at 09:52am

Heath Players Production of The Women of Troy. 3rd/4th/5th November 2022


IT was with some trepidation that I set out for Hatfield Heath Village Hall on Thursday evening as I wasn’t too familiar with Euripides’ classic play from which Chrissie Waites had adapted her production. I needn’t have worried as her version was perfectly valid in its own right.

She set her interpretation of the story in the common room of a soon to be closed psychiatric hospital housing the “women of Troy” inmates who await to hear what will happen to them – the parallel being the capture of Troy by the Greeks.

The play began with some atmospheric effects from Sound Designer Jay Fordham followed by a scene-setting monologue from Poseidon (played by the always brilliant Steve Foster) who laments the demise of his hospital (Troy).

We then meet Hecuba awakening in the hospital common room (the Greek camp) as she mourns her tragic fate. She is joined by four more inmates, Calliope, Melpomene, Thalia and Ilia. This female Chorus forms the backbone of the play.

The role of Hecuba was by far the largest and was played with confidence by Vanessa Walker in only her second ever appearance on stage. Her performance could have been even better with a stronger display of emotion at certain points and a more varied delivery but overall she was very believable. Jenna Young as Calliope showed once again what an accomplished actress she has become. Her restless, nervy characterisation was spot on. Two newcomers to the Company also did extremely well. Mita Upadhyaya as Melpomene used her rich, mellifluous voice to good effect and Ginny Elliston’s Thalia, with her constant hair twisting, convinced us of her anguish. Finally, Renee Joyce gave a terrific performance of studied concentration and madness as Ilia, clutching her little teddy bear while uttering an occasional violent outburst.

The writer and director, Chrissie Waites made an appearance as the mad Cassandra and Jo Gladstone doubled as both Andromache and Helen. She convinced as both characters, the first showing great emotion at the loss of her baby and the second believable as the alluring Helen begging Menelaus (another role for Steve Foster) to take her back.

Another interesting performance was given by Jaki Newman as Pallas. Both of her scenes, although short, demonstrated once again what an excellent actress she is. Mark Ratcliff also convinced in his characterisation, this time as Talthybius who has to reluctantly tell the women of their respective fates. His well portrayed nervousness, with his tapping fingers on his clipboard, elicited our sympathy and was completely credible.

Mention should also be made of the set which was primarily white, simple and effective. Painted by Derek Foster it was certainly convincing as a room in a psychiatric hospital. The costumes, which were essentially sackcloth for the women of Troy, were well designed and made by Dot Sharp, Linda Waites and Carla Bednarczyk. Props (again all white) were provided by Janet Ratcliff.

The climax of the play was well presented with the women, knowing that they were leaving forever, daubing their initials on the wall using different coloured paints in order that they would not be forgotten.

The use of song from time to time was also an interesting idea and worked well, particularly as an ending to the play.

Chrissie Waites’ direction was effective although some scenes would have been improved by more movement and fluidity. However, to have written, directed and appeared in Women of Troy is an achievement of which she should be very proud.

This type of play was a new departure for Heath Players and shows what an adventurous group they are. Their standards are always high and this enjoyable, entertaining and thought provoking production was no exception.

Bernard Moule.
4th November 2022.

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