Troilus and Cressida

Helen of Troy in Troilus and Cressida

Helen of Troy in Troilus and Cressida

Dr. Pradip Khandwalla in his book Lifelong Creativity talks about different types of creativity. These types are essence, elaborative, expressive, entrepreneurial, existential and empowerment creativities. Expressive creativity is the one, I wish to talk about. Expressive creativity deals with expressing an existing idea in a creatively different manner. Last week I watched Shakespeare’s “Troillus and Cressida” at the Grec Festival of theatre in Barcelona. It was an excellent example of Expressive creativity. It was a production of Cheek by Jowl and was directed by Declan Donnellan.

The story : Cressida was a Trojan girl and a daughter of a deserter. Trojan prince Troilus (younger brother of Paris and Hector) falls in love with her. However, in an exchange for a Trojan held hostage by the Greek, Cressida has to be given away to the Greek.  A parallel narration depicted the political maneuvering by the Greek and the Trojan off the warfield. Achilles, the strongest among the Greek had declined to fight, however when his close friend Patroclus was killed, he decided to avenge his death and killed Hector, the Trojan hero.

Despite being a tragedy, this play is not a traditional tragedy in many ways. First of all, Troilus and Cressida, despite being the title-characters of the play, are not protagonists of the play. There is no single protagonist of the play in fact. In a traditional tragedy the play should end with death of the protagonist. But here neither Troilus nor Cressida dies. The one that dies is Hector, elder brother of Troilus and an ethical warrier. In an earlier sequence, Hector, despite having beaten Ajax, a Greek warrior who fought a duel with him, doesn’t kill Ajax, just because he is unarmed. The same Hector, ironically, gets killed by Achilles when he himself is unarmed.

Troilus and Cressida

Troilus and Cressida

This particular production was different and creative in many ways. All the characters were dressed modernly. Greek warriors were dressed either in black or dark green uniforms, to show that Greek army was actually a mixture of armies of different city states. On the other hand the Trojan camp was normally dressed in whites and looked more elegant. However, the most enjoyable aspect of this play was illumination / lighting. Lights were used so effectively that it complemented and in some cases enhanced all the performances perfectly. The play was performed in an amphitheater and there were spectators on both sides of the stage while the play was performed in the middle. This posed a major limitation, as in, it was difficult to create ambiance with the use of backdrop or any other sort of stage decoration. However, in this case lights came to help. Different shades of lights, different foci and different rhythms of lighting perfectly created the requisite mood. Another limitation that amphitheatre presented was absence of a curtain. It is rather unthinkable to do a classic play without a curtain. However, the play had an aura of “absurd” due to modern costumes, and they used it to their advantage in placing of props. Between two scenes where lights were down, actors carried small stools in their hands and they were collectively used as props. No other props were used and it didn’t affect the performance in any way. While, the modern attire of the cast made it easier for the audience to relate to them, those who came to watch primarily because of Shakespeare, were not disappointed either. Some portions from the text were omitted but otherwise, actors stayed loyal to the text and delivered it well. However, there is one sequence where one of the characters sings a song. “love love…nothing but love”. The song was recomposed into a semi-blues version and was used quite effectively at various stages of the play.

In brief, it was a very nice example of applying new methods and finding new ways of expressing something that has already been expressed in an established different manner.

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4 thoughts on “Troilus and Cressida

  1. i am reading Othello right now and my thcaeer wants a list of Shakespeares plays in the 3 genres (histories, comedies, tragedies) but i cant type it, write it by hand, or copy and paste it to a page on my computer. I have to print it off a website ..i need to find a website though .do you know where i can kind a printable list??

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