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EIF Review: Trojan Women ****

Michael Cox reviews 'an excellent production'.

Trojan Women is a brilliant reminder of the importance of having the Edinburgh International Festival. To have the National Changgeuk Company of Korea’s version of the classic Euripides tragedy perform in the capital is nothing short of a privilege.

Trojan Women is heavy stuff. For those not familiar, it is a harrowing play about the fall of Troy. The men have been slaughtered and the remaining women, all once proud and powerful, are about to be enslaved by the Greek victors. Queen Hecuba (Kim Kum-mi—utterly remarkable) attempts to give some dignity to those still alive, but as the news of each woman’s fate becomes known, the bleakness of the situation becomes undeniable.

Ong Keng Sen’s production is almost impeccable. It is wonderfully staged and designed, incorporating Korean stagecraft and music into a faithful retelling that feels fresh and vital. Bae Sam-sik’s writing (performed in Korean with English subtitles) finds humanity within the dread and allows the words to create mental images of beauty and horror. Only the section of King Menelaus confronting wife Helen doesn’t quite equal the rest of the play—musically it becomes more ‘poppy’ and the vocal attack of language isn’t as rich as the remainder of Sam-sik’s script.

But not matter. Trojan Women is an excellent production of a vital play that speaks as clearly now about the horrors and futility of war as when it was originally written.

Trojan Women performs at the Festival Theatre until August 11, 2023. It is part of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival.

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