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David Hugh Jones
Jonathan Miller wanted Troy to be sharply differentiated from Greece; Troy was decadent, with clear abstract lines (based on some of Hans Vredeman de Vries' architectural experiments with perspective). The Greek camp, on the other hand, was based on a gypsy camp near the BBC Television Centre; cluttered, dirty and squalid. Miller envisioned it as built on the remains of an earlier Troy, with bits of roofs jutting out of the ground and bits and pieces of ancient statues lying around (although this idea originated for Troilus, Miller had first used it in his earlier Timon of Athens (1981)). See more »
This is, along with Pericles, Timon of Athens and All's Well That Ends Well (just for starters), the only filmed version of the play available. Although the production is not bad, you get the feeling that if there was a new filmed production it would supersede it.
The star of the film is Charles Gray as Pandarus, Cressida's camp uncle and matchmaker. He gets some of the best lines, referring to young lovers as a "generation of vipers", and he is wonderfully decadent yet also quite touching in his love for his niece.
For me, the soldiers all blended into one, apart from Patrolucus, Hector (once identified) and Thyerstes (Jack Birkett), a grotesquely camp soldier commenting on some of the action in the camp.
As the lovers, Anton Lesser is suitably tender as Troilus though not particularly interesting. Suzanne Burden speaks the verse clearly but she lacks spark and flirtatiousness. Their tragedy is that Troilus is true in love whereas Cressida is a flirt and cannot stay true, even if she loves Troilus.
I haven't read the play so I can only judge it by what I see here. There are some great lines and emotional love scenes, and some great characters in Cressida, Panderus and Thyerstes. The story is set during the Trojan War. Cressida and Troilus are in love but her fidelity is tested when she becomes a prisoner of the Greeks. Beware- at the end, there is a very powerful gruesome scene. Thematically it is very interesting: the subjects being war and lechery. Shakespeare draws parallels between the two and the two world clash together at the end for a grotesque finish.
Is it a tragedy or a comedy? Some have called it a satire but I think it's more of a tragedy with political commentary. It's an interesting play that I'd like to explore more.
In short, this production is not bad (long though) but overall it lacks something of the greater productions, such as Measure for Measure and Pericles.
EDIT: Actually looking back on this, I think Suzanne Burden, whilst not doing a great job, does a slightly better job than I thought. I think she lacks Cressida's crassness; Cressida is essentially one of the boys. She wants to play by men's rules but can't. However she does get Cressida's vulnerability across well. For all her bawdy talk, she is a maiden when she meets Troilus. I think her ability to stay true is not simply because she's a flirt, but because she is afraid of commitment. She reveals a lot of her heart to Troilus but as soon as she says a nice thing she has to undermine it with a cynical one. Though Cressida knows that Troilus loves her, she can't quite believe it until she is confronted with another man. That's why it's such a shame that this play is not done more; it's Shakespeare's most modern and incisive study of relationships.
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