Pulse Fringe: Trojan Whores

If ever there were a pair of half-sisters and their cousin about whom history or at least myth has handed a role, it was the women featured in this play. Trojan Whores puts three Homeric heroines on a desert island with the time to reflect on how reputation, almost entirely male generated, has used them.

Pulse Fringe Festival: Trojan Whores, Wolsey Studio, Ipswich, June 19 & 20

If ever there were a pair of half-sisters and their cousin about whom history or at least myth has handed a role, it was the women featured in this play.

Trojan Whores puts three Homeric heroines on a desert island with the time to reflect on how reputation, almost entirely male generated, has used them.

Helen of Troy, of the once fleet-launching face, is the first there. Now she's a batty old dear for whom an ageing cricketer wouldn't even fall off a pedalo. On the island where she is both queen and alone, she's joined by, or perhaps just imagines, the other two. One is Ulysses' wife, cousin Penelope, who faithfully waits twenty years for her husband's return. Third up is Klytemnestra, who bumped off her royal husband and the new girlfriend he brought back from the wars.

It's an intriguing play. The three writers - Peppy Barlow, Sally Wilden and Dawn Rose unusually start from the point of creating one character each - in fact, Dawn Rose even plays hers, Klytemnestra. The writers can argue their point from a particular corner.

We see Helen (Pauline Dent) guilty, resentful and deeply regretting that it was her beauty that led to the deaths of thousands of young soldiers in battle. It was hardly her fault that men found her so irresistible she became the focus of one of the great international incidents (of which there is tantalisingly little historical evidence, by the way) of the Ancient World. Now older, forgetful, still - like Miss Haversham - wearing her wedding dress, she can please herself, pick out those memories which she enjoys and forget the others.

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Penelope (Anni Meehan) is still playing the house-proud homemaker, so annoyingly certain that Ulysees, of whom she has a youthful photograph, will come back, that the other two taunt and almost drown her. Klytemnestra, dressed in red and with blood on her face alone remains hotly passionate. She's dispatched King Agamemnon whom she had feared might wish to get rid of her, because the line of succession ran through her and not him. She's trapped and fears her son will revenge his father's death.

Helen thinks on. Perhaps she's better, wacky but her own person, on her island.

It's a fierce play, well performed, unrelenting in its re-examination of how history's playthings - and all women - accept, reject or change the way a male-dominated world treats them.

Ivan Howlett

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