Arts & CultureCampus & City

Play Review: Troilus and Cressida

"Troilus and Cressida" is an imperfect, but entertaining adaptation of Shakespeare's play.

Brett Dahl, a Master’s of Fine Arts directing candidate at the University of Alberta, adapted and directed William Shakespeare’s play Troilus and Cressida.

The play is a comedic and satirical depiction of the Trojan War. Dahl plays up the humour of the original play and tries to give a voice to both queer and female characters in his adaptation. However, certain parts of the play lacked consistency and distracted from both the amazing set and actors. 

The set was a standout in the play — simple, yet used to the fullest of its potential. Curtains and lighting layered the stage, which allowed for scenes to have a greater depth. The play transformed the box frame in the center of the stage from a private room to a glass cage. Curtains in the background were raised to create a battlefield in certain scenes, and the lighting controlled when the audience could see into the box. The crew used the lighting and curtains perfectly throughout each scene.

Jacquelin Walters did an amazing job acting in the role of Cressida. Walters artfully took the audience through the character’s love, heartbreak, and madness. Opposite to Walters was Spenser Kells, who played the awkward, boyish Troilus to the fullest. Megan Holt and Elyse Roszell portrayed Achilles and Patroclus respectively, creating tension and heartbreak between the lovers. My favourite characters were Pandarus and Thersities, both played by Michael Watt, whose comedic timing was always on point. 

Unfortunately, the costumes were inconsistent and ultimately distracted from the play. The attempt to modernize the costumes was successful when it came to Cressida, Achilles, Calchas (Maxwell Vieira), and Cassandra (Rowan Andruik). However, most of the other character’s costumes looked cheap in comparison and weren’t cohesive with the others. The armour for the Trojans and Greeks looked like hockey equipment or Stormtrooper gear, which felt out of place. 

Shoes were used throughout the play to draw the lines on the battlefield and mark Cressida’s loss of love and freedom. The Trojans wore sneakers while the Greeks wore combat boots, pointing to the Greeks as better equipped for the war. Cressida’s loss of freedom after being taken by the Greeks was shown through her footwear. The first half of the play had Cressida in pink heels as she lived and loved comfortably. Later, when taken against her will, she is shoved into red heels to show the loss of her choice. It was a subtle yet inventive way to mark the change for Cressida’s character. 

The battle scenes were choreographed and executed expertly in collaboration with the lighting to create an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty. However, the inconsistencies with the props took away from the scene where Hector (Alexander Mahon) dies. The battle scenes featured swords, but soldiers with gas masks and machine guns ended Hector’s life. This clearly confused the audience — some people even laughed during this serious scene. 

The play was promoted as a queering of the classical play, but it fell short for me. It failed to elevate the queer characters above being comedic relief, victims of ridicule, and doomed in their love. Pandarus, Thersities, Achilles, and Patroclus are explicitly queer in this adaptation. In most other adaptations, their queerness is only implied. This adaptation played up the flamboyance and femininity of Pandarus and Thersities. But, it didn’t give any greater depth to the characters. In a scene where Patroclus is the subject of insults (per usual), Thersities yells a homophobic slur at him. This only added shock value and reinforced queer people as those to be abused, even by other queer folk. I feel the potential to queer the play and lean into the satire of war even further was lost on this adaptation.

Even with the inconsistencies with the costuming and the messaging on and off-stage, the cast executed their parts extremely well. The set was innovative and was paired with an incredible lighting crew. The play has its faults and may not be to everyone’s tastes, but the cast and set make it worth watching.

Troilus and Cressida is playing at the Timms Centre for the Arts until February 17. Tickets are available here.

Leah Hennig

Leah is the 2024-25 Opinion Editor! She is in her first year studying English and media studies. In her spare time, she can be found reading, painting, and missing her dog while drinking too much coffee.

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