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Written by Sophocles
Performed in English

The god Hercules asked the shepherd Philoctetes to light his funeral pyre. Philoctetes did so and the god gave the shepherd his own magical bow as a reward.

Philoctetes later went on to fight for the Greeks in the Trojan War, but offended the gods and was punished by a festering wound in the foot so terrible that his fellow Greeks marooned him in the barren island of Lemnos.

The Greeks pinned their hopes on winning the war on Philoctetes’ friend Achilles, their most glittering hero. But Achilles was killed.

Helenus, a prophet, said that the only way to win the war was for Achilles’ son Neoptolemos to bring Philoctetes – and the magic bow – back to Troy.  As the play begins, Odysseus and Neoptolemos land on Lemnos to fulfil this task… 

Translated  by Kenneth McLeish. Produced by Cheek by Jowl. The first performance of Philoctetes was held on 27th September 1988 at the Brewhouse Theatre, Taunton, UK.  

“If this production doesn’t win some of the prizes going in 1988/1989 AD, then Olympus is barren and the Gods unjust”

The Guardian
Cast and creative team


Charlie RoeOdysseus
Paterson JosephNeoptolemos
Keith BartlettPhiloctetes
Trevor BaxterA Merchant
Duncan DuffHeracles/Sailor
Peter DarlingSailor
Michael JennSailor
Lloyd OwenSailor
Cecilia NobleSailor
Dale RapleySailor
Timothy WalkerSailor

Creative Team

DirectorDeclan Donnellan
DesignerNick Ormerod
Musical DirectorPaddy Cunneen
Lighting DesignerStephen Rate
Voice CoachPatsy Rodenburg
Previous performances

Previous Performances

Date (first performance)LocationNo. of performances
6 April 1989Ankara, Devlet Tiyatrosu, Turkey1
30 March 1989Istanbul, Devlet Tiyatrosu, Turkey1
26 March 1989Bucharest, Teatrul Nacional, Romania2
19 March 1989Bratislava, National Theatre, Slovakia1
15 March 1989Prague, National Theatre, Czech Republic1
10 March 1989Oslo, Norske Teatret, Norway1
24 February 1989Stratford Upon Avon, The Swan, UK2
9 February 1989Perth, New Fortune Theatre, Australia4
19 January 1989Singapore, Victoria Theatre, Singapore2
29 December 1988London, Donmar Warehouse, UK21
17 November 1988Coventry, Arts Centre, UK2
11 November 1988Winchester, Theatre Royal, UK2
4 November 1988Basildon, Townsgate Theatre, UK2
24 October 1988Cambridge, Cambridge Arts Theatre, UK2
17 October 1988Brighton, Gardner Castle, UK2
10 October 1988Bury St Edmunds, Theatre Royal, UK4
3 October 1988Bracknell, Wilde Theatre, UK2
27 September 1988Taunton, Brewhouse Theatre, UK3
Awards and reviews


Olivier Award nomination – Designer of the Year

1988 – For A Family Affair, Philoctetes and The Tempest at the Donmar Warehouse

LWT Plays on Stage – First Prize

1987 – Philoctetes


“If this production doesn’t win some of the prizes going in 1988/1989 AD, then Olympus is barren and the Gods unjust”

The Guardian
Production photo
Photograph: Robert Workman
Production photo
Photograph: Robert Workman

Not in Utopia – subterranean fields.
Or some secreted island, heaven knows where!

William Wordsworth

But in the very world, which is the world
Of all of us, – the place where, in the end
We find happiness, or not at all!

William Wordsworth

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