As part of the Orange Tree's commitment to its trainee director's scheme,
there's an intriguing "Women on Women" double bill currently on offer at this most intimate of
venues: a slice of classic Greek drama presented in tandem with a short
contemporary play composed specifically for this space.
plays may seem poles as well as centuries apart, but actually they share more
common ground than may be initially obvious. Euripides' drama follows the
fortunes of the enslaved Trojan women after the ignoble Fall of Troy while
Tracy Hitchins' endearing tale of contemporary love and internet mores
chronicles the myriad frustrations of one Ellie Battercock, fettered by a
dead-end job and lack of friends, but nonetheless hopefully dreaming of true
Euripides has been called the forerunner of the modern psychological
playwright, and it's a perceptive description for, in Don Taylor's new
translation of what is an undeniably bleak play, it is the modernity of the
female characters which surprise. Here are no noble, one-dimensional heroines
but real women, bereaved and displaced by war, struggling to find any sense
of meaning in a world of utter chaos.
Similarly, though Hitchens' play is a
comedy - and delightful in parts - her characters, particularly the central
protagonist Ellie, are searching for a sense of security in an increasingly
depersonalised age. Surrounded by 24-hour webcams and amorously involved with
a mysterious stranger called Moonshadow, Ellie confides her woes to the
audience in dramatic fashion just as the women of Troy publicly bewail
their cruel and arbitrary fate.
As a duo, these plays make an interesting partnership, each reflecting
different aspects of women's lives, each exploring a world where there's a
sense of insecure identity with instability prevailing. Quirky, topical and
frequently amusing, Hitchens' play is a trifle overlong and needs a
stronger focus, but it does possess considerable charm and complements
Euripides' drama appealingly; after the claustrophobic emotion of the former
a light comedic touch is refreshingly welcome.
Both productions have their
merits and, although neither grips tightly enough, as a theatrical project, Women on Women is certainly an admirable venture.