That queer old hero, Achilles

Troilus and Cressida is not generally thought one of Shakespeare's greater plays, which gives it one great advantage: directors feel more free not to stick to the letter of the text and to risk their own personal interpretations of its inner meanings.

The Royal Shakespeare Company's John Barton has risen to the challenge magnificently and this story of Greeks and Trojans in a wholly new light.

The opposing armies fight in near nudity in a war of barbaric sadism only thinly overlaid with chivalry.


The idea of the Greek cult of the body and killing linked linked to sex, or as a Shakespeare expressly calls it lechery, is put across with great power at the Aldwych Theatre, London.

The hero, Achilles, is outrageously effeminate - in an age when this was small disgrace - and played superbly by Alan Howard.

But it is useless to single out members of this fine RSC team. One criticism is that the story Troilus and Cressida itself is rather swamped by the whole concept of tragedy, barbarity and comedy.

Yet Mr Barton has pushed the frontiers of theatre to new limits, especially in his magnificent lighting and battle scene, in which a balletic, slow-motion sword fight between Achilles and Hector proves that here at last is one theatre director not too snooty to learn from the cinema.

Nor did it seem possible that English actresses could bring off the the wild pagan keening lament when Hector ignores prophecies of his coming death.

It is a remarkable production.

Alan Howard as Achilles

London Staff Reporter,

Manchester Evening News, 24.6.69.

Playing Shakespeare/Troilus and Cressida