Shakespeare is a challenge for any actor but performing the Bard’s plays in his hometown can really add to the pressure. Acting students from Stratford-upon-Avon College took on the challenge recently and produced a terrific production of one of Shakespeare’s lesser performed shows: Troilus & Cressida.
Troilus & Cressida is a love story set against the backdrop of the Trojan War. Filled with bawdy comedy and tragic gloom, the play showcases a range of themes and emotions and the college actors attacked this performance with energy and pizzazz.
The performance venue, The Bear Pit Theatre, located in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon town centre offered a fantastic performance space for the student actors as the space is ‘in the round’. The audience are placed on all four sides of the stage which means actors need to be aware of where and how they move around in the space.
The ambience is set as soon as you walk in the theatre with atmospheric lighting by Backstage Production Arts student Joe Paget. This was supported by an excellent soundtrack executed by Backstage Production Arts student, JD Cole, and throughout the incredible detail and timing of the technical aspects meant the show flowed effortlessly along.
The costuming and setting, designed by Backstage Production Arts student Evie Bryson was simple and effective. The only set pieces were staging blocks that moved around during the performance to become a bed, seats, places to hide behind and platforms. This meant all the focus was centred on the performance. And the cast didn’t fail to deliver.
The show was a cast comprised of 16 actors and each and every cast member worked seamlessly together to create an impressive ensemble that supported the action and each other.
The show began strongly, with a high energy that continued throughout the production. We were then introduced to some of the main players in the show. Troilus, played by Sammy Lees commanded the stage with ease; his earnest, playful nature and charm made him instantly likeable. His counterpart and title character Cressida played by Millie Macdonald delivered a graceful and poised performance. Her soft yet clear delivery shows warmth and makes the romance between her and Troilus truthful and sincere. However, it’s not just about romances in this production but also the bromances.
Sammy pictured left and Millie pictured right
The other person in Troilus’s life is Pandurus played by Myron Byfield. In the first half, while Pandurus assists Troilus in wooing Cressida, the pair bounce energy off each other and each scene is a delight to watch. Myron’s facial expressions and physical comedy was excellent. Also, their musical interlude showed both musical skill and excellent comedic ability and ensured the characters were firm favourites of the audience.
Sammy and Myron (pictured right) were an excellent pairing
Ella Hampson as Ulysses and Niamh Ray as Nestor showed excellent conspiratorial conniving as they manipulated the way of the war alongside the commanding figure of Agamemnon played by Mai Worth.
With war brings soldiers and special mention has to go to the incredible physical routines and fight sequences throughout. Sean Andrews exhibits a stunning display of physical agility, rolling and throwing himself across the stage as Thersites. Jenson Greenwood (Ajax) and Lewis Worrall (Hector) participate in multiple fights and showed skill and agility with Lewis staying calm and controlled against Jenson’s rage and brute aggression; a fantastic spectacle. Dylan Allsop Judd also showed himself to be a true fighter as he calls for blood in the final battle and is a commanding presence.
The fight sequences throughout were an impressive feat of agility
Congratulations to the entire cast and crew for a well-rounded and engaging show; showing that though Shakespeare’s plays were written over 400 years ago, when performed with truth and skill, they are still truly engaging and it’s a testament to the talent of these young actors to portray such a story so successfully.