Andromaque 2007 / 2008 / 2009

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Remarkable audacity... absolute clarity... Donnellan is one of the most original directors in theatre todayLe Figaro, Paris
4 stars
The most anticipated theatrical event of the year... Angry ghosts emerge from dark corners to unleash the pain, raw anger and denial that are bolted into Racine's tidy rhymes like cluster bombs in the sheath of a shiny artillery shell The Guardian, London

The Trojan War ended in a blaze of shame, a massacre of horrific proportions.

Now the children of Troy's Greek conquerors face the impossible task of living up to their immortalised parents.

Hector's widow, Andromaque, lives only to save her son. When the Greeks demand his surrender, she is given an appalling dilemma.

Racine exposes our capacity for self deception with lacerating clarity.

Produced by C.I.C.T / Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in a co-production with Théâtre du Nord, Lille and Cheek by Jowl

Find out more by visiting the entry for this production in our archive

Current and future tour details will be shown here...

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Cast
Camille CayolAndromaque
Christophe GrégoirePyrrhus
Camille JapyHermione
Xavier BoiffierOreste
Romain CottardPylade
Bênêdicte WendersCéphise
Cécile LetermeCléone
Vincent de BouardPhoenix
Mathieu SpinosiAstyanax

Creatives
DirectorDeclan Donnellan
DesignerNick Ormerod
Lighting DesignerJudith Greenwood
Movement DirectorJane Gibson
Music and SoundMarc-Oliver Dupin
Sound DesignLe Quatuor Beat
Assistant DirectorMichelangelo Marchese
Costume SupervisorSylvie Martin-Hyszka
VoiceValérie Bezançon
Hair and WigsSéverine Martin
Make-upPaula Parra

2009

In praise of... Jean Racine

Queues for returns? For a play by Racine? In the original French, with all those Alexandrine couplets and Aristotelian rules about unities? Something is surely afoot in British cultural life when, as happened in London last week, a play by Racine is suddenly the hot ticket. British audiences, reared on Shakespeare's theatrical colour and stylistic bounteousness, have traditionally always found Racine's classical rigour and emotional intensity hard going. Racine is revered in France, but decades can pass on this side of the Channel without sight or sound of one his plays. This summer, though, the French tragedian seems suddenly to be back in fashion. Cheek by Jowl's high octane production of his Andromaque has been touring the country to acclaim since March - it moves on from a sold-out run at London's Barbican to Warwick Arts Centre this week. Then in June comes Phèdre, with Helen Mirren in the title role in Ted Hughes's English language version, at the National Theatre - only the third Racine in its nearly half century of existence. Given the history, it would be reckless to pretend that, after 350 years, the British have at last begun to fall for Racine. But it would usefully throw open a window that has been closed to too many for too long if there was a more regular opportunity to sample his work here - and that of the other great French theatrical masters, like Molière and Corneille. Perhaps the National and the Comédie Française could exchange theatres for a season every now and then? The Guardian, 4 May 2009 (Editorial)
It's hard to imagine Andromaque being more fiery or more precise than it is in Cheek by Jowl's superb production. The lethal loop of these lovers - Orestes loves Hermione who loves Pyrrhus who loves Andromaque who is the widow of Hector who was killed by Pyrrhus - is staged with a stripped down intensity that mirrors the spareness of Racine's verse.

Set after the sack of Troy, written in the aftermath of the thirty years' war, it is performed in the dark austerity dress of the second world war, with just one splash of white - the heavy folds of the heroine's ill-fated wedding dress. A watchful onstage cast sits immobile and silent. Their rigidness encloses couples who move, sometimes leap, across the stage as liquidly as dancers, and who spit out their souls with a biting eloquence.

Hermione is caught against a concrete wall in a slanting cone of light. The mood shifts as the stage is drenched first in golden then in white light. The devastation of a world is conjured by a handful of blood-stained confetti and the sound of an approaching wind. Declan Donnellan's production, designed by Nick Ormerod and lit by Judith Greenwood, is in French with surtitles: it has had queues for returns in London; it's at Warwick Arts Centre from Wednesday to Saturday. Susannah Clapp, The Observer, 3 May 2009
4 stars
It is, perhaps, the earliest example of bad post-war planning following a dubious military victory. The ragbag Greek alliance that eventually triumphed in the Trojan War foolishly took their captives home as spoils, to various grisly ends. Racine, in this great 1667 tragedy, worries at the issue of the issue of Trojan hero Hector, and whether the boy should be allowed to live to, potentially, take revenge.

Even on this bare, cavernous stage, there’s a thrilling sense of hurtling disaster, as the dangerous domino effect of thwarted passion comes to its bloody conclusion. Hector’s widow Andromaque is faced with an impossible choice: either to save her son by marrying Pyrrhus, the man who caused such carnage in her native city, or see the boy condemned to death. Pyrrhus’s spurned fiancée Hermione is not going to go quietly, either.

If any company was going to breathe compelling dramatic life into this elegant, chilly French stylist with his impeccable rhyming Alexandrine couplets, it was those international maestros Cheek by Jowl. Director Declan Donnellan might not have his surtitles in a convenient place but he certainly knows how to inspire non-English-speaking actors to make their mother tongues peal with truth and life for us.

The modern-ishly dressed women here may be pawns and chattels but that doesn’t stop Camille Cayol’s Andromaque attacking her lines with unrelenting intensity and pawing at her son like a desperate mother animal, or Camille Japy explaining her schemes with startling, breathy calculation. A magnifique evening. Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard, 27 April 2009

2007

Creating Andromaque

Cammille Japy, who plays Hermione, and Xavier Boiffier, who plays Oreste, discuss the process of creating Andromaque.

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(2.52Mb) Published: Thu, 15 Jan 2009 15:59:29 GMT




Press Release

Andromaque Press Release (PDF)