Women of Troy

Euripides’ Women of Troy is widely considered to be one of the most powerful anti-war plays ever written, expressing the bleak but undeniable truth that the impact of war never ceases to be felt around the world.  So it is that this play, written in Ancient Greece around 415 BC, encompasses past, present and – in the absence of evidence to the contrary – future.  Troy is a metaphor, symbolic of any geographical location which becomes a hotspot for conflict; and the experiences of the women caught in its snare are as real today as they ever were.  As Don Taylor writes, their ‘next reunion is pencilled; only who will destroy / Is still uncertain, and what particular Troy’.  

The play begins the morning after the Greeks have finally brought an end to the standstill between themselves and Troy.  The Greek ships appear to have departed, leaving behind only the mysterious gift of a wooden horse which the Trojans themselves haul over the threshold to their city, unaware that crouched inside the statue are hordes of Greek soldiers who, having at last gained access to the city through subterfuge, are able to destroy it from within.  

It is not hard to imagine the bewildered joy with which the Trojans must have received the horse, followed by the brutal realisation, mid-party, of the truth: the Greeks have deceived them, Troy is burning and its women are now slaves.  This sudden and jarring change is something we have sought to capture visually in our production, with images of wealth, celebration and glamour colliding with the detritus of war.  

Euripides has little to say of acts of violence dressed up as heroism on the battlefield and has little faith in the selfish, petty Gods in which these women have placed their faith.  Rather, the play urges us to give our attention to the experience of these women as they not only live through war but find the inner resources to move beyond it.  In recognition of that strength, our production makes use of aerial sequences to capture the possibility of transcendence, literally raising the women above the war-torn landscape.  

And yet the play gives us a remarkably nuanced attention to human nature.  The Greek soldier Talthybuis is no sociopath but a victim in their own right – an individual forever changed by war, despite having been on the ‘winning’ side.  And what of Helen, whose beauty is considered a crime in itself, not least by the women with whom she is now held captive?  In these characters’ shoes, who can say what we would not do simply in order to survive? 

Our cast of Upper School pupils, ranging from S1-S6, have lived through the unprecedented triumvirate of Brexit, Covid and the war in Ukraine.  They have experienced powerlessness, upheaval and unwelcome change.  They are uniquely placed to acknowledge suffering, recognise strength and keep fighting for a better world.  Our production of The Women of Troy is a vehicle to enable them to do exactly that.

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