Review Round-up: Downie's Helen no Tragedy
Written in 412BC, Helen radically reimagines the story of Helen of Troy. In Euripides' version, a phantom triggered the Trojan war, while the real Helen has spent the subsequent years in exile in Egypt under the watchful eye of King Theoclymenus. When her husband Menelaus is shipwrecked off the Egyptian coast, the couple are finally reunited and plot their escape.
There was little critical consensus over Helen - particularly regarding the play's genre - but on one issue they were united: all were glad to see Greek drama making its long-awaited bow at the Globe. Most made mention of the particularly “free” nature of McGuinness' translation, which for some increased the play's resonance but for others set the wrong tone with its “colloquial chirpiness”. Of the performances, overnight critics were enraptured by Penny Downie's “fiery” and “dominating” Helen, while Paul McGann was praised for his “engaging directness” as Menelaus. And our award for most oft-mentioned chorus member in a review round-up definitely goes to the mysterious “countertenor in a white tuxedo”.