Phaedra's Love

Wed 5th – Mon 31st August 2015

reviews

Freya Routledge

at 09:44 on 13th Aug 2015

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Established in February this year, Fear No Colours is a new-on-the-scene theatre company formed by students and graduates from the University of Glasgow’s theatre department. However, despite its newly established status and the youth of the cast, a brilliant performance of Sarah Kane’s Phaedra’s Love was delivered with all the dark emotional intensity that this adaptation of Seneca’s classic would be expected to have.

Entering the tiny auditorium, the audience is met with an interesting theatrical preamble. Hippolytus (Callum Partridge) was seated on a red beanbag being caressed by a number of characters as Phaedra (Hannah Torbitt) was also embraced on the other side of the stage. This preface to the main action established the performance’s central concern with sex and emotional indifference. Indeed, despite characters’ repeated physical touching of both Hippolytus and Phaedra’s bodies, both remained stony-faced, pausing only to deliver penetrating glances to individual audience members.

The use of light in this performance was particularly effective. During this preface, multi-coloured light suggested the multiple possibilities that are implicit at the beginning of any story and later turns to simple yellow, signalling the uncompromising and inevitable beginning to the characters’ ends, a cycle of demise that can only be expected with any plot’s allusion to Greek tragedy.

With the characters’ journey downward established as the epicentre of the action, Partridge carried out a striking portrayal of the nasty and melancholic Hippolytus in the style of a teenage emo.

The insistent nonchalance of Hippolytus’ character and aesthetic rightfully clashed with Torbitt’s depiction of Phaedra’s soft mournfulness in the face of her unrequited love for her step-son. Her submission to her bodily desire for Hippolytus then proved to be her destruction, leading to gut-wrenching violence that cleverly conflated agression and sex.

At the bittersweet ending there is an unsettling violence in a clever subversion of the protective role of the doctor which suggests that no-one in the play was ever safe. Indeed, in a brilliantly sinister manner, the performance closes with the Doctor’s cheerful singing of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, a final comment on the play’s conclusion that professes the inherently destructive power of love.

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Polly Jacobs

at 10:45 on 13th Aug 2015

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Hyppolytus, played by Callum Partridge, is the royal equivalent of Alex from the Clockwork Orange. Sneeringly arrogant, sex-driven, and on the whole, pretty fucked up, Hyppolytus lazily destroys the people surrounding him while recumbent on his beanbag throne. To be immoral would be to recognise that which is right and then utterly ignore it. Hyppolytus, however, seems to be amoral, utterly devoid of conscience: something much more terrifying. His character's only savoir is that he has an entirely and sometimes painfully clear outlook on the people that surround him, albeit a highly pessimistic one.

Particularly enjoyable are the wry and unexpected asides. Yes, Hyppolytus was utterly depraved, but he did enjoy hamburgers and peanut butter, so he was, at least, human. Expectations are also subverted in a brilliant line later on: Hyppolytus seems to address Phaedra in a tender way following their sexual intimacy and subsequent fight.

Acting was good and the characters were worryingly believable. Phaedra (Hannah Torbitt) was played passionately which worked well when juxtaposed with Strophe's (Aea Varfis-van Warmelo) more practical approach. Private conversations about Hyppolytus were cleverly crafted so that Partridge was onstage, although unseeing and unhearing, and dominated it even when he was supposedly not there.

The play was all-too graphic in places, perhaps unsuitable for such a small venue. Phaedra's phrasing when addressing her love for her stepson was also rather uncomfortable. Although the delivery of the lines was good, the lines themselves were occasionally nauseating. Swearing, while at first seemed refreshing, became repetitive and began to grate.

As the debris of mass death and animalistic violence began to litter the stage, Joy Division's 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' added an ironic, amusing, yet altogether chilling dimension, particularly when sung amidst dead bodies with the nonchalance of a nursery rhyme. Towards the end everything became very strange and violent. Think 'Rocky Horror’ turned 'The Wasp Factory'.

Overall the play brought to light some very interesting points. Firstly the utter dysfunctionality of Greek mythology, as well as questions considering sin, God, and the grimmer aspects of love. Human nature is shown in its very worst clothing: all seemed corrupt or corruptible.

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