Troilus and Cressida (1993): Tara Arts
PrTroilus and Cressida (1993)
This production was on tour through 1996, including at the Contact Theatre, Manchester from 29 September - 23 October 1993. Casting information taken primarily from reviews.
"Jatinder Verma, artistic director of the Asian company Tara Arts, is fearless in his approach to Shakespeare. Movement is highly choreographed, in the tradition of Indian theatre. Moreover, he cuts and re-orders the text, casts a man as Cressida, and has black actors 'whiting up' to act the Greeks. Meanwhile, Patroclus is, literally, a part for a stick. Achilles fawns over this long shaft with a head on it, straddling Patroclus like a hobby-horse. Verma, according to the production notes, correlates Troy with the multi-racial societies of modern Britain or Bosnia, and the Greeks with an all-white 'Blacks Out!' culture. This production opens with Elizabeth I (a cardboard cut-out) reading her proclamation expelling 'negroes and blackmoors' in 1601 during England's war with ethnically mixed Spain. Frankly, the pairing of this 'Blacks Out!' issue with this particular play - albeit written in 1602 - does not seem especially fruitful or clearly followed through in production. Still, this ancient tale of cousins at war and private lovers split by inter-tribal hatred succeeds as an image of today's eastern Europe....There are too many stilted performances, but Yogesh Bhatt, while satirising coyly flirtatious femininity, also plays Cressida with very real love and suffering. He turns the play into her tragedy more painfully than many actresses I have seen. Much of the delivery is monotonous or irons out character: Thersites is curiously nicely spoken and Ajax is hardly dunderheaded. Nevertheless, Verma's ritualistic sylisation does occasionally work magnificently...there is Nirmal Chandra Pandey's haunting singing, like a mournful folksong or prayer from a minaret. The music evokes the world of long ago and far away and fills scenes with infinite sadness." ~ Kate Bassett, "Choreography, cut-ups and a cardboard queen", The Times, 4 October 1993
"If there is one Shakespeare play that belongs to this century, and to the Cambridge University wing of the Shakespeare boom, it is Troilus and Cressida. An interesting assault but under-acted assault on this tradition was launched in Manchester last week...The play has been almost as heavily cut and rearranged as was Dryden's adaptation of this pitiless anatomy of love, duplicity, wars and lechery, seven years into the siege of Troy. It still lasts three hours....Verma, like Dryden, slashes away at the big speeches and casts the ebullient actress Shelley King as Thersites and Diomedes....Echoing Adrian Lester's black Rosalind for Cheek by Jowl, Yogesh Bhatt is a winsome, touching male Cressida; he doubles unimposingly as Helen....Cross-cultural appropriation of Shakespeare is not only possible, but desirable, but the redoubtable Verma has chosen a difficult play and is only partially successful. Peter Brook's latest Tempest and Robert Lepage's Coriolanus set the current standard." ~ unattributed clip in the V&A Theatre and Performance archive, Observer, 3 October 1993
"Tara Arts certainly do not mess about. For their first venture into Shakespeare, Britain's leading Asian company have chosen that cynic's Iliad, Troilus and Cressida...what we actually get is a formal, stylised, heavily cut and visually powerful lamentation for a fallen world. Seven actors of mixed Asiatic, French and Anglo-Chinese origin, play multiple roles and even swap genders (Cressida and Helen are played by a man, Thersites and Diomedes by a woman) on a stage encircled by tiny, terracotta props, mirrors and drums, pipes and cymbals. If anything, the production seems informed by elegiac pain rather than political urgency....But what you miss is the political complexity. Seven actors, however, protean, cannot begin to suggest the fundamental division between the Trojans' doomed romanticism and the Greeks' wily opportunism. Thersites' role as proxy commentator is almost obliterated. And the great scenes of internal debate are so drastically cut and reordered to have lost much of their force. Hector's momentous policy shift on the Helen question is almost meaningless if you have not heard all the preceding arguments....Yogesh Bhatt, who proves himself a sinuous Cressida and Helen and an accomplished musician. It is a brave venture that proves Tara should take Shakespeare on board; but it is one that conveys the play's emotional desolation far more vividly than its political relevance." ~ Michael Billington, The Guardian, 2 October 1993