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Career > > 1969 > Troilus and Cressida

Troilus and Cressida

August 08, 1968 | The Royal Shakespeare Company
Directed by: John Barton | Literature: William Shakespeare | Costume Design: Timothy O'Brien | Production Design: Timothy O'Brien | Music: Guy Woolfenden
The Trojan War going on its seventh year. Troilus (Michael Williams) is King Priam's youngest son; Cressida (Helen Mirren) is the daughter of Calchas, a priest of Troy. Cressida's uncle, Pandarus, encourages a romance that blossoms between the two. Meanwhile, the Greeks besieging Troy are bickering amongst themselves. The apathy in particular of Achilles toward the war is seen as damaging to the army's overall morale. When Hector issues a challenge to duel any Greek in one-on-one combat, Ulysses puts the fix in on a lottery so that Ajax is chosen.
Cast: Michael Williams/Bernard Lloyd (Troilus), Helen Mirren (Cressida), Norman Rodway (Thersites), David Waller (Pandarus), Sebastian Shaw (Ulysses), Alan Howard (Achilles), Patrick Stewart (Hector), Bernard Lloyd (Paris), Bryan Robson (Agamemnon), Eric Allan/Bruce Myers (Diomedes), Richard Moore (Ajax), John Kay (Priam), John Shrapnel, Richard Jones Barry (Patroclus), Sheila Allen/Hildegard Neil (Helen), Clifford Rose (Nestor), Susan Fleetwood (Cassandra), Diane Fletcher (Andromache), Ben Kingsley (Aeneas), Gareth Thomas (Prologue)

Production Notes

Three years after her overnight conquest as Cleopatra with the National Youth Theatre, Helen Mirren notched up her third Shakespearean lead with Cressida. The character starts as a juvenile tease, vows eternal love to Troilus, then abruptly ditches him for Diomedes when she’s handed over to the Greeks. Make sense of that. Mirren solved it (like Wedekind’s Lulu) by throwing back whatever image the man wants—playmate, romantic, or sexual realist. She was like a fading coal brought back to white heat by the breath of each successive partner. As Mirren recalls in her book, “I was not really ready for this but steamed ahead anyway, helped by kind and experienced actors like Sebastian Shaw, Norman Rodway and especially Ian Richardson. Ian took me under his wing, showed me respect and taught me with generosity.”

The critics were not that generous with Barton’s production. The Sunday Times wrote, “It would be pleasant to say that Miss Mirren has actually increased her celebrity this week; but Mr Barton’s production, which presses upon the very limits of provocation, gives her no chance to do so. It is hardly too much to say that Mr Barton sees this most disputed of Shakespeare’s tragedies, not as Troilus and Cressida, but as Achilles and Perversion. There are times when the performance appears to be on the point of developing into a homosexual orgy in the midst of which poor Cressida’s physical allure and moral delinquency seem a tedious interruption of the main sensational business of the evening, which is to show Achilles as a startling kind of male whore.”

After its run at Stratford-upon-Avon and the Aldwych Theatre in 1969, “Troilus and Cressida” headed for a European tour, with stops in Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.

Tour Dates

June 23, 1969 – Schauspielhaus, Zurich, Switzerland

June 26, 1969 – Grand Theatre, Geneva, Switzerland

June 29, 1969 – Bühnen de Stadt Theater, Cologne, Germany

June 30, 1969 – Koninklijke Schouwburg, Den Haag, Netherlands

July 02, 1969 – De Rotterdamse Schouwburg, Rotterdam, Netherlands

July 03, 1969 – Stadsschouwburg, Amsterdam, Netherlands

July 04, 1969 – Stadsschouwburg, Nijmegen, Netherlands

July 05, 1969 – Stadsschouwburg, Eindhoven, Netherlands

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