Seneca wrote his Latin adaptation of Euripides' Trojan Women at a time when he was in exile and in fear for his life. This too is the fate of the last few survivors following the fall of Troy. The Greeks have overcome the Trojans by their clever ruse of the Trojan Horse and Troy is now merely a smoking shell. As the Greeks wait for the tide to take them and their prisoners home, the Greek soldiers squabble over the prisoners, some wanting to kill them all to prevent uprisings, others determined to let them live, even if only to be enslaved by powerful, and in some cases mad, Greeks. All the while the soldiers realise that they will themselves not be welcomed home as victors. After ten years of a foreign war, they will have been forgotten.
Howard Colyer's free adaptation of Seneca's version of the play updates the language with modern-day swearing and other idiom, but otherwise seems fairly true to the original, with the traditional chorus featuring prominently. The chorus sway with the movement of the tides and are hidden behind masks to highlight their anonymity (the masks also slightly muffling their lines, which is a shame). There's a deliciously nuts Cassandra in Jess Tobert and a strong, defiant Hecuba (Jacquie Crago). The Greek soldiers are suitably buff and testosterone-fuelled and Pyrrhus (Edward Mitchell), Agamemnon (Karl Wilson) and Ulysses (Daniel Wiltshire) provide much macho posturing. The humour largely falls flat though. In Seneca's day, reading the runes from chicken and pigs' innards was a serious business, so it jarred to have one of the soldiers make light of it as though cynically commenting on horsemeat in Teso burgers.
A timeless play about strong women overcoming tragic circumstances, Trojan Women highlights what happens not only to the losers in a war, but also the desperate effect on the winning side. This play may have first been performed in 415BC, but it's just as relevant to contemporary war as it was to the Ancient Greeks and Trojans and is well worth the revival. It's also an interesting take on those proclaiming themselves as prophets. As Cassandra says, she's "fated always to tell the truth and never to be believed". At least she got to say "I told you so!"