I've always felt that the authentic Globe experience can only really be attained during a daylight matinee, which makes it highly appropriate to stage a Greek drama - it's surprising they haven't done it before. Helen (. . . . . of Egypt) is an excellent first choice - broad enough to rise above the distractions at this venue and, at 90 minutes, just the right length for the uncomfortable seating. Deborah Bruce treats Euripedes' tragic comedy (or comic tragedy) as a joke filled romp with a very modern translation by Frank McGuiness, although some of the colloquialisms go too far. Penny Downie is magnificent as Helen, spirited and erotic and showing a testy impatience when her long lost husband proves a bit slow on the uptake. Paul McGann is a dignified Menelaus, effectively stolid amongst the near farce around him and there's a bit of fun spotting sporting lookalikes - Mohammed Ali as the King of Egypt and Roy Keane lurking in the chorus. Not all the gimmicks work - Castor and Pollux as labourers with angel's wings are just silly, but Helen is great fun and I hope Greek drama has found a new al fresco home on Bankside. - David Baxter
23 Aug 09
This first Greek drama at The Globe proves quite a treat. It helps that Euripides version of the story has Helen nowhere near Troy when they fought over her and that Frank McGuiness' translation is irreverent and playful, making the play very suitable for the Globe. The design is a bit of a mess, but the performances are very good, with Penny Downie on terrific form as Helen. William Purefoy's counter tenor added a lovely quality to the music, which is much more than incidental in this production. There's nowhere like The Globe when it's good, and here it's good. - Gareth James
17 Aug 09
The audience gave this a warmer reception than Troilus which seemed a little unfair at half the length and difficulty of text. However, it was funny and thought provoking. Penny Downie was engaging. Deborah Bruce the Director, in the pre-show talk, spoke about the need for bold decisions which she had certainly taken. It clearly was enjoyed and she has done a good job. The moment when the Chorus realised they were not going to get to go back to Greece was genuinely moving. I was not keen on the "surprise" but I thought it was quite clever if a little contrived. It was good to hear music so integrated into the production which created atmosphere and contributed to stylistic understanding. - Hilary Lister
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