Gods and Monsters stage their annual open-air theatre season as part of More London Free Festival, which includes this version of Euripides' tragedy.
Gods & Monsters deliver a satisfactory dollop of comedy and tragedy at the Scoop this summer with double-bill 'Captain Show-Off!' and 'Women of Troy'.
As every child knows the sweet part of any meal is the best bit and here it's served up first. Adapted from the Roman comedies of Plautus, 'Captain Show-Off!' is a silly child-friendly romp about mistaken identities in which estranged twin Roman brothers – one meek, one arrogant - go in search of one another.
It’s all very knowing, with towns carrying such names as Waitross and Tescoss (in the region of Every Lidl Helps). Phil Willmott’s boisterous adaptation takes its influence from pantomime and the 'Carry On' films that were themselves inspired by a slapstick tradition that can be traced back to Plautus’ gags. The cast revel in their cartoonish personas and are great at getting the audience involved, while Theo Holloway’s music will get you shuffling those Roman sandals.
If the sweet is a delight the main course is more chewy. There’s much to admire in Lisa Kuma’s adaptation of Euripides’s Trojan War plays. She amalgamates the stories of 'Iphigenia at Aulis', 'Hecuba' and 'The Trojan Women' into a piece that celebrates the titular women; giving voice to central but traditionally passive characters in Greek and Trojan mythology. As their children and partners are slaughtered around them and they are taken into slavery it’s impossible not to think about modern counterparts not so far away.
'Women of Troy' is thought-provoking, but not a cathartic experience. The lack of shading not needed or noticed in 'Captain Show-Off!' is missed when colouring in the pain of Greek grief. The cast manage the mix of contemporary vocabulary and classical syntax in Kumar’s text confidently but occasionally the combination jars anyway and the emotional peaks feel forced. Set against the darkening sky it looks gorgeous though and demands attention, which is surely the trick when you’re grabbing audiences from the street.