(Photo from telegraph.co.uk)
From the moment I bought my ticket to Troilus and Cressida, I've been beside myself about seeing this immense collaboration between the RSC and the Wooster Group. As an avid fan of both these companies it was my dream come true to have them work together.
This collaboration is part of the RSC's reaching out to more experimental work programme. The philosophy behind it is indeed a great idea, the RSC does need to keep moving on and evolving and get a reputation for more challenging work. And you'd be hard pushed to find a more experimental and pushing the boundaries theatre company than The Wooster Group. So their creativity and the RSC's Shakespearian experience it should be a sure fire hit.
The Wooster Group is based in New York in Wooster Street, it is an ensemble company of artists that was founded by Elizabeth LeCompte (who co directed this production with the RSC), Spalding Gray, Jim Clayburgh, Ron Vawter, Willem Dafoe, Kate Valk and Peyton Smith in 1975. Since then they've produced innovative work always pushing the boundaries in performance art. I queued for hours to get a ticket for their show Brace Up! in 1993 at the Riverside Studios, which was a revolutionary show for me. a visual explosion of theatre. I even stood next to Willem Dafoe at the bar which was most definitely a highlight of the evening. They were the hottest ticket in town, their work combining movement, the spoken word, complex lighting, intricate sound and the television screen was an inspiration to all of us studying drama at that time. They were the gods of experimental theatre in our eyes.
It is a testament to the quality of their work that they are still going very strong today and, influencing so many young artists still. So it was sad for me yesterday when there were so many empty seats in the theatre. Are they just not fashionable here in the UK anymore? Or did this potentially explosive experiment not work?
I now know that the latter is closest to the truth. I didn't read any of the reviews until I'd got home last night, the majority however were not in the least bit favourable. I wasn't surprised. The show felt disjointed as if both companies were working on entirely different productions and, hadn't had enough time to gel the production together. Troilus and Cressida also has it's faults as a play, it has no real satisfactory conclusion, it is neither a tragedy or comedy, I've never particularly felt much sympathy towards the characters. Nevertheless, the show felt like a work in progress. This was not either party's usual polished, slick, finished production. The language seemed beyond the Wooster group's grasp, hindered even more by the peculiar, indescribable accents they adopted as the Trojans, when compared to the Shakespearian actors their weakness were further exposed. Their decision to rehearse separately in two different countries I'm sure didn't help, this didn't feel like one ensemble but a mish mash of styles, abilities and focus.
There was one mesmerising scene between Troilus and Cressida when both actors were mirroring the actions of the actors on the films played out on the television screens, looking to them for guidance. It was subtle and beautifully done but I'm afraid I was entranced by the movement and the lighting and not the words. All the elements should have complimented each other seamlessly but somehow it was again another lost opportunity to create a beautiful piece of theatre.
It was such a shame as I so wanted to enjoy it and come out having revisited my youthful passion for theatre of this genre, alas this was not to be.