By Malin Nilssen
Hekabe is Anne Carson’s translation of Euripides’ tragedy Hecuba, a story that takes place just after the Trojan War as the Greeks head home. It depicts Hekabe, queen of the fallen city of Troy, grieving for the many losses she suffered in and after the war, with the last loss of her son Polydorus setting her up for revenge. Carson’s translation gives women as a group and their choices the stage. TFTV’s production focuses on the suffering of the play’s women and men’s obliviousness towards it, bringing the women together to give a powerful portrait of their choices.
This depressing play was executed with pure bleakness, genuine rage, and an unrelenting feeling of injustice. The opening scene sets the tone: the lights go out and we are surrounded by the sound of the sea. Polydorus’ ghost (Alice Rowlatt) enters the stage dramatically, transitioning into a moving monologue. The lights come on in bleak colours, and throughout the play create atmosphere with tones shifting from warm to cold to sorrowful to angry. Hekabe (Annabel Lee) has a powerful voice that rings through the room, the chorus of women behind her acting as a counterpoint with their hums, which whether in major or minor key send chills through the audience.
The women work as one, using the stage well, giving a constant fluid motion to the play. Every transition is done in slow motion, the cast being exceptionally good at synchronization. The choreography is intriguing and supplies the otherwise dialogue-driven play with physical movement that supports the story’s development. In their earthen, worn clothes, the women blend into the background, into their accepted slavery. In contrast, the men arrive in polished suits and uniforms of more modern style, each new entrance being decked with a more modern outfit. The male characters bring an element of humour, which acts as a way of making the play more relatable, while also accentuating their ambivalence towards the women’s suffering.
This production really does give female suffering the spotlight. The audience senses the power these women hold together, their voices and rhythm reverberating through the room greet us with images of pain, misfortune and a lust for vengeance in a post-war society. The men’s modern costumes give the production a relevance we don’t always expect from an ancient Greek tragedy, but TFTV have truly managed to capture a distinct female feeling that we can all sympathize with. Annabel Lee as Hekabe and her chorus of women do justice to the struggles women face in a post-war society. The united raising of their fists towards the end, symbolizing collective female strength, fills the Scenic Stage Theatre with the power of the Trojan woman who still resonates with our twenty-first century society.