Review: the daughter of King Priam of Troy

Written by Wendy Wrangham


Beauty in Ancient Greece generally paved the way to doom and Cassandra, beautiful daughter of King Priam of Troy was no different. Having been given the gift of prophecy by Apollo, she spurned him at the last minute and the god added a curse: that her prophecies would never be believed. Cassandra then was doomed to be portrayed as a ranting lunatic on the walls of Troy.

Multi Story, an English duo, created their version of the Cassandra myth in 2002 incorporating words from G.W. Bush´s post 9/11 speechwriters as well as vitriolic and patriotic websites to the classical tale. Opening to the sounds of the Dead Can Dance, the greyed faces, ragged clothing and godly incantations remind us we are in the realm of Greek tragedy. As the wars in the Middle East inch ever closer to the siege of Troy´s ten year mark, the ironies within Cassandra´s visions and the king´s blind refusal to listen become more and more marked. And, as the play progresses, it doesn´t matter that Cassandra´s visions are proved right because, as history shows time and again, if you don´t say what people want to hear, you won´t be listened to.

The images come thick and fast. Drinking wine becomes a form of waterboarding. Knowledge is control, power is freedom, censorship is oppression, silence is betrayal, the liberator is the rapist, surrender is dishonourable. Is the messenger a spy for the enemy or a (highly selective) advisor to the king? Who is the infidel? In the end however, the result is already known… Cassandra isn´t believed, destiny cannot be avoided, the mighty will fall and brothers, lovers and children will die. The final image is not a new one but one that has acquired added poignancy: we are all barbarians (in someone´s eyes) but it is only the victor who writes history.

With six years of evolution, I did feel that Cassandra might benefit from a wee rewrite; a coalescing perhaps of the numerous ideas, images and ironies that the twin stories have amassed. The passion of the players cannot be denied and this is a classical tale told in the classical theatrical manner, precise, practised and perhaps a tad serious.

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