Review: ★★★★ Trojan Women, Southbank Centre

Review: ★★★★ Trojan Women, Southbank Centre

Brought to London, for its UK premier, the National Changeuk Company of Korea showcases its skills with their epic version of Trojan Women.

Trojan Women, one of Euripides’ most well known works, has been re-invented yet again. This time by award winning director Ong Keng Sen– who has made it his ambition to bridge the gap between past and present traditions from around the world. This piece is a contemporary Korean opera, blending traditional instruments and Pansori story telling with modern music and visual arts.

Keeping to the narrative, the Trojan women await their fate as they deal with the aftermath of a 10-year war with the Greeks. Balls of red wool are unwound to symbolise the blood spilt and Hecuba, Queen of Troy played by Kim Kum-mi, wails in a traditional Pansori style that grips the audience- encapsulating her pain in a breath taking visceral way.

An interesting choice is to make the ‘harlot’ Helen, Kim Jun-soo, androgynous. His husky tones, and more modern, melodic style of singing show how different Helen is from the other Trojan Women, an outsider who will not be accepted by the others for having free will and deserting Troy with her lover Paris.

The use of projections of fire, the planets, and the sea on the white ruins of Troy, creates a sense of urgency and reflects how that even though the women have been through hell the past 10 years, they cannot remain in this state- that the world keeps on moving and so- when the ships arrive to take them- must they push on with the next chapter of their life. As slaves, or new wives, as whatever their role as a woman to their captors- is decided for them. The use of Pansori style story telling, really brings home and shines a new light on the amount of suffering and how helpless the Trojan women are.

Lift festival is London’s Premier Festival of International Performance, and Trojan Women, is a more than worthy opener. The festival runs until July, with work from all over the world. Check out the programme here. 

Victoria Margaret

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