"Highly entertaining Greek comedy production"
by Diane Samuels for remotegoat on 10/08/09

For a much lighter alternative to the searing tragedy of Phedre further along the south bank at the National Theatre, you need look no further than The Globe's beautifully paced version of Frank McGuiness' take on Euripides' take on the myth of Helen of Troy.

Helen, it seems, has been sorely misunderstood. Penny Downie's stunning and statuesque beauty, now in middle age and sporting a stream of auburn curls, proclaims her fidelity and blamelessness. She did not run away from her husband Menelaus to Troy with her lover Paris, no that was a fantastical illusion concocted by the envious and vengeful goddess Hera. She, the real Helen was transported to Egypt into the care of the tyrannical King Theoclymenes who wants to take her as his own wife. She resists by seeking sanctuary at his father's hallowed tomb, but time is running out. When her husband Menelaus for whom she has been pining, played with sinewy and wry power by Paul McGann, is washed up on Egyptian shores, the two are reunited and must concoct a scheme to escape before Theoclymenes murders him and marries her.

Deborah Bruce directs with wit and manages to find some weight beneath the comedic turn of events. The Trojan wars were an enduring nightmare and Euripides' play is as much to expose the pointlessness of war as revel in two middle-aged, married lovers running rings around a brute of a bad guy. McGuiness writes with pithy playfulness. The company seem to be enjoying themselves and readily have fun with each other and the audience. Very enjoyable summer fare.

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