Troilus and Cressida. The Globe Theatre, London, 13th August 2009


Julia Daly.


Daly. "Review of Troilus and Cressida. The Globe Theatre, London, 13th August 2009." Early Modern Literary Studies 15.1 (2009-10) <URL:>. 


Directed by Matthew Dunster, Assistant Director Monique Stirling, Designer Anna Fleischle, Assistant Designer Alison McDowall, Composer Olly Fox, Musical Director Joe Townsend, Choreographer Aline David, Fight Director Kevin McCurdy, Text Work Giles Block, Movement Work Glynn MacDonald, Voice and Dialect Work Jan Haydn Rowles.

Priam/Margareton/Calchas: Seamus O’Neill, Hector: Christopher Colquhoun, Paris: Ben Bishop, Troilus: Paul Stocker, Helenus: Jay Taylor, Margareton: Pandarus: Matthew Kelly, Aeneas: Fraser James, Antenor: Stevie Raine, Alexander: Richard Hansell, Cassandra/Helen: Ania Sowinski, Andromache: Olivia Cheney, Cressida: Laura Pyper, Agamemnon: Matthew Flynn, Menelaus: Richard Hansell, Nestor: John Stahl, Ulysses: Jamie Ballard, Achilles: Trystan Gravelle, Patroclus: Beru Tessema, Ajax: Chinna Wodu, Diomedes: Jay Taylor, Thersites: Paul Hunter.


  1. For this production a ramp had been attached to the front of the Globe’s stage, allowing the Trojan warriors to trudge wearily uphill from stage right to stage left and enter the gates of Troy through the door at stage left whilst Cressida and Pandarus observe them from the balcony above.   A square tent made from a wooden frame with white curtains had been set up in front of the large central door at the rear of the stage, and was used as Cressida’s chamber, Agamemnon’s and Achilles’ tents, and, wound with a swathe of green cloth, Pandarus’ garden.  Frameworks of sharpened stakes were carried on and off, used as barriers and weapon stands as appropriate.

  2. The music in the production was mostly apt – appropriately martial where needed and providing interesting mood changes.  However there were a few moments of singing, notably over Troilus and Cressida’s bedroom scene that were strongly reminiscent (for me) of the wailing accompaniment to the 2004 film Troy (containing great flaming balls of string and Achilles frantically running through Troy as it burns, trying to rescue people), which I found somewhat distracting.

  3.  The Trojan warriors mostly wore short leather kilts with tribal body tattoos, whilst the Greeks appeared mostly in trousers and silk stoles.  The Greeks also spoke with a variety of accents presumably denoting their multiple island origins, Nestor’s Scottish accent being particularly open to parody at the appropriate point in the text.  Leisurewear in the less martial scenes was in the form of loose linen tunics and dresses (and in Achilles' case, a more flowing dressing gown equivalent).

  4. The production opened rather shakily with an announcement that Trystan Gravelle (Achilles) had had emergency knee surgery the night before, but would do his best although it might impact on the fight scenes.  However, I am pleased to report that if it did, this was invisible to the audience.  The fight sequences were excellent including the way in which a group of warriors provided a dumb show battle behind the Prologue, who then pulled off his helmet and introduced himself as Thersites (Paul Hunter).

  5. Hunter’s Thersites stole the show.  He engaged with the audience, inviting them into his cynical worldview by making them laugh with a few well-chosen asides such as hawking bed and breakfast with chariot parking and Trojan War memorabilia, and using some sort of hypnosis to stop Patroclus from hitting him.  There is something very Falstaffian about this portrayal, the jolly scoundrel who knows what is really going on and how to profit best from it.  I would also like to make special mention of Chinna Wodu’s Ajax who had something of Mr T from The A-Team about him, and actually seemed to inflate as he was falsely praised by the other Greeks (II.iii).

  6. There were some very complex pieces of staging.  For example, when Ajax was hunting through the camp to find Thersites (II.i), people poured across the stage carrying bundles and fixing weapons, chasing a thief and chopping off his hand, making a disorienting quantity of noise.  When Pandarus tried to get Paris to make Troilus’ excuses at dinner (III.i), Paris’s retainers join in with “Love, love nothing but love” and suddenly it appeared that they were in a Busby Berkeley musical number, as boy slaves danced cheek to cheek tauntingly scampering around Matthew Kelly’s delightfully risqué and increasingly desperate Pandarus, whilst the shrewish Helen and chunky Paris tangoed suggestively around the stage.

  7. Although these scenes were wonderfully lively and enjoyable, they had a tendency to overwhelm Cressida’s scenes, almost (and perhaps intentionally) making them appear to be unimportant filler rather than the central story.  Laura Pyper’s Cressida was high-spirited and mercurial, mocking her uncle Pandarus in a delightful and teasing manner, struggling as politics steamrollered her dreams, and eventually taking power where she could.  In particular, her repatriation to the Greek camp was played very well (IV.v).  Initially submitting fearfully as the rough commanders kissed her regardless of her wishes, she then gathered her wits, picked upon Menelaus, the weakest link, and finally outwitted Ulysses.  Unfortunately it was sometimes hard to hear her over the passing planes of London’s air traffic when she was on the far side of the stage.

  8. This production is an enjoyable, lively, inventive and well cast piece of work.  Unfortunately, this summary leaves the reviewer appearing callous, for Troilus and Cressida is, surely, a tragic love story, and therefore should inspire sadness and pity rather than joy.  However, not only do the delightfully complex scenes swamp the love story of Troilus and Cressida, but the audience is made aware from the start that Cressida and Troilus live in very different worlds.  Whilst Troilus is ruled by his emotions, and lives in the world of masculine honour, Cressida acknowledges the double standards of her world, that one maintains honour by appearances (IV.ii).  It is honour that is on trial here, not Cressida.  Her betrayal is portrayed in Matthew Dunster’s production as a natural consequence of a society that treats her as little more than a gaming chip.  The Greek distaste for her blind traitorous father is telegraphed clearly, as is the threatening nature of the kissing scene and the overall impression of rough and ready camp life from II.i; there can be no safety for a lone woman in the Greek camp, unless she has a local protector.  Troilus is too far away to defend her, and too blinded by youth and idealism to acknowledge this reality.

  9. Troilus and Cressida is so much more than the personal tragedy of boy meets girl then, separated by war, girl betrays boy.  Dunster’s production focuses strongly on the satirical nature of Shakespeare’s work, showing the larger than life heroes of the Trojan War by magnifying their all too human flaws and highlighting the dichotomy between their world of honour and the realities beneath its gilded surface.  We laugh at the bickering Greek kings as they manipulate one another; we confront the dishonourable lust that lies beneath the love of Paris and Helen as they tango on the Titanic; we listen in awe as Troilus and Paris argue that keeping Helen is an honourable endeavour, and win over wiser heads with the temptation of personal glory on the battlefield.  It is in the scenes between Hector and Achilles that we are brought most savagely face to face with Shakespeare’s interrogation into the nature of honour.  Hector, the noblest and bravest of all the Trojans, is fighting, not for the glory of Troy, but for a good suit of armour. Achilles, the greatest fighter of the Greeks, is shown out-matched and fleeing his one-on-one fight with Hector, only to hunt him down later with a group of hired thugs who catch him unarmed and slaughter him. Achilles underlines his claim to have killed Hector by blooding his sword pointedly on one of his own men; there will be no mention of his dishonourable behaviour, on pain of death.

  10. Despite their names being the title of the play, the audience is left with feelings of only mild pity for both Troilus and Cressida.  The death of Hector in such an ignominious fashion is truly tragic, and shocks the audience far more than Cressida’s betrayal.  However, the audience do not engage personally with potentially pathos-inducing scenes, for, in Dunster’s production, Thersites’ anachronisms, the disorienting portrayal of camp life, and Helen and Paris dancing all serve to remind the audience that this is a story, creating a Brechtian detachment.  These combine with Shakespeare’s own insertion of Thersites as observer and commentator; we may not agree with his analysis, but the very fact of its existence causes us to question action on-stage rather than be carried along with the story.  This technique is most effectively used in V.ii.  Here, Cressida and Diomedes act out their seduction unknowingly observed by Troilus and Ulysses, all of whom are secretly watched by Thersites, whilst the whole scene is scrutinised by the audience.  This emotional detachment allows the audience to enjoy the spectacle of the performance, appreciating fully the humour, the irony, and even the sadness of the play, and leaving them free to form their own opinions on honour, love and war.



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