List all the Shakespeare plays you know. The first few will roll of the tongue, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear, the endless Henry series and maybe even A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Then, depending on schooling, will probably be the likes of Julius Ceasar, Taming Of The Shrew, The Tempest etc… The point being, there are many Shakespeare plays most of us think of before we name Troilus and Cressida and Coriolanus which happen to make up the Lazarus Theatre Company‘s double bill.
Thematically, the play’s have much in common even if the stories are different. Both are tragic love stories. Troilus and Cressida about the ones caught up in war and Coriolanus about the love between a hero and his homeland. In both plays, Lazarus Theatre goes for a slightly surreal aesthetic. The story of the Trojan War is staged in a party setting and its aftermath, whilst Troilus puts every character in identical clothes and makes do with half a dozen props and some chairs. The legendary heroes of the Trojan Wars (Helen, Ajax, Achilles) are notable for how little they appear. It is as if the company and Shakespeare throw them in just to prove that this is Troy. Nicholas Farr and Colette O‘Rourke portray the play‘s namesakes. The tension between them is palpable as the play gets going and by the end, their performances leave you heartbroken.
By the time we reach Coriolanus, it is Prince Plockey‘s time to shine. While the show is a great piece of ensemble work, it is Plockey‘s intensity as a Roman General that carries it. Sharp political speeches litter the play, but it gets uncomfortable to realise that the hero is essentially an elitist fighting democracy. Or is he a hero fighting corruption? Or a warrior that wants to be left alone? Those tricky grey areas of life! In fact there is something uncomfortable about war in these plays. The horrors of battle get reduced to a single blood covered actor and a rather chilling execution and in Troilus war seems to be a mere backdrop. With a title like Our World At War, you expect the mood to be more dangerous.
Lazarus Theatre update Shakespeare’s plays and infuse them with life and energy. The staging enhances the mood of the play despite the disconnect between the aesthetic and the nature. They execute two plays that might not quite work on their own but stand well together. 3.5/5
Review written by Ingimar Sverrisson.
Our World At War is currently showing at Tristan Bates Theatre until Saturday 6th September. For more information on the production, visit here…